He’s a Demon on Wheels! Reviewed: Speed Racer (2008)

Forget what you’ve heard. The Watchowski brothers have tapped into everything that was great about the late-60s Japanese-made, American-dubbed series. No comic book/cartoon-inspired movie has understood its source material this well since Robert Altman’s (almost universally and unfairly hated) Popeye. What’s more: CG-effects are rarely employed to such fulfilling ends.  Aesthetically speaking, SR abandons the idea of a color scheme by throwing an entire Crayola 64-box at the screen. In fact, the art direction and general style of SR provide half the fun. The rest of it comes from respectful, performances by an able cast and car-fu race sequences. Emil Hersch is an ideal Speed; all gee-whiz charm and steel-jawed anime intensity. Susan Sarandon, as Mom Racer, offers supportive maternal wisdom (and pancakes), and achieves sincerity despite some very cartoony dialogue. Ditto that John Goodman, who fares far better as Pops than he did as Fred Flinstone in THAT abomination of a live-action cartoon. Matthew Fox not only looks like Racer X — he SOUNDS like him. Christina Ricci as Trixie says things like “cool beans!” and “hubba hubba”, and looks adorable in a bob. Even little bro, Spridle and pet chimp, Chim Chim, aren’t nearly as annoying as you’d expect. Live action and computer animation blend artfully, making action sequences exciting and intense — even while submerging us in a world that doesn’t even remotely resemble real life. Laws of gravity and the rules of racing don’t apply here. Fans will appreciate the inclusion of villains like Crusher Block and Snake Oiler–not to mention a cameo by the Mammoth Car(!). You get about five solid races during the film, including a cross-country rally like the ones common to the cartoon. The story is simple and the ending predictable but no less satisfying than you’d want from a SR movie. I think history will judge SR more kindly than initial critical reaction. It’s a rare live-action cartoon adaptation that gets EVERYthing right. Can we put the Wachowski’s on Jonny Quest next?
***1/2

~ by Number5ive on May 13, 2008.

One Response to “He’s a Demon on Wheels! Reviewed: Speed Racer (2008)”

  1. The Wachowski bros certainly put a lot of effort into making Speed Racer… the movie overall looked and felt like a cross between anime, a kaleidoscope, that Flintstones movie, a video game and the Dukes of Hazard

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