Speed Racer

I'm going to catch hell for this, so read at your own bile inducing peril.

I took LMA to see Speed Racer yesterday. I was going to take her little brother as well but I'm glad I didn't. It was loud, had lots of explosions, tense scenes and frankly a lot of dialog that would have been lost on a three year old.

However, I think LMA liked it well enough.

Hell, I even liked it. I wouldn't consider it a waste of money. It's a good matinée. I mean first of all the Wachowski's are making a full length cartoon based off a 1960's anime. How deep and meaningful could it be? I think you'd be surprised.

Yes, it was bright and fast and the races were impossible and the colors garish. It seemed a little long toward the end but that was because I was sitting next to a little girl with a little girl bladder. But in her defense, she said she wanted to see if she could hold it because she didn't want to miss anything.

For those that don't know the story, Speed Racer revolves around the Racer family and their racing/race car, mom and pop business. The original cartoon saw Speed facing off against various bad guy racers usually paid by local criminal organizations. Members of the family include Mom and Pops Racer, Speeds younger brother Spritle and his chimp friend Chim Chim, as well as loyal mechanic and family friend Sparky. There is also the recurrent character Racer X, who through the course of the TV show is rumored and then eventually shown to be Speed's older brother Rex. In the TV show, Rex runs away after a wreck and a falling out with Pops, vowing to become the best racer in the world. He helps Speed constantly and then drifts back into his unknown life. In the movie, Rex is thought to have died in a horrendous wreck but Speed suspects early on that Racer X is in fact his brother.

The film starts off with a nice flash back of Speed as a youngster, day dreaming of racing (accompanied by a nice child like animation) and whips right into him as a young man driving a local race. The Racer family is shown to be against all major sponsors until a megaconglomerate mogul comes along and nearly woos Speed into becoming part of his team. When Speed finds out this devil is no better than any other, the business man attempts to doom the Racer family financially and legally. Speeds only choice is to side with another racing team - and with Racer X - to bring this company down. The final show down is a grand prix race against a legend and I'll let you figure out the outcome.

Right up until the end, the film seems like a parody of the Wachowski's work. It's dialog heavy but action packed. Yes there are bullet-cam scenes. The ending even has a Neo-going-into-the-light moment that I know you wouldn't have seen from any other film makers. But for all it's glitz and...well, speed, it's a charming story about family and loyalty. The acting is fairly decent considering the cartoon dialog. Emile Hirsch is incredibly wonderful as Speed and Roger Allam (V for Vendetta) does a fairly good Tim Currey bad guy. John Goodman and Susan Sarandon are very charming and Mom and Pops. LMA's favorite was the younger brother Spritle played by Paulie Litt who I swear was channeling Kevin Pollack. I think I was most impressed with Matthew Fox as Racer X. I don't remember much of the cartoon, but I do remember Racer X's ominous voice and Fox did a great job of establishing and staying in that character. I think the only problem I had was with Trixie. I LOVE Christina Ricci and would watch her read the ingredients off an egg carton, but something about her was TOO sexy. I know she was Speed's love interested and thus had to be attractive, but there was something too smoldering and fantastically hot for me to believe she was Speed's childhood sweetheart. I guess that's a personal issue I'll have to work out on my own.

This movie will end up being a cult film, well loved by fans but over looked by Joe and Joann Q. Public. The references are all there (Cruncher Block, Inspector Detector, the 7 buttons, the original theme) but I think most people will view this as a technocolor nightmare. It's too clean, too fast, too well put together and too unreal. And honestly, it's really hard to see past that. I tried and did my best and I think I was able to enjoy the story and the performances and sort of be led down the rabbit hole to a place where things only make sense if you ignore what you see.

It's frenzied but triumphant. It's the pod race from Star Wars without the stupid CGI aliens and damn goofy lines. It's the Fast and the Furious without the testosterone. It IS a good family movie because it's about family and how supporting the ones you love and believing in yourself and your abilities is always the better choice.

I don't have a rating system, but let's say out of 5 Lego pieces I give it 3 1/2.

PS - Bit of trivia. The M on Speed's helmet doesn't stand for "Mach 5" (his car) but for Mifune Motors. In the original cartoon, Speed's name was Mifune Go. In a trend that defined later anime shows, the multilayer linguistic names used in Speed Racer led to later character naming difficulties. The original cartoon was named Mach GoGoGo. The car named Mach, the homophone go for 5, "Speed's" name Go and the English word "go." So the original title would have translated to Mach 5 Go Mifune Go.

Carry on.

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