((Trying to get back into my journalism ways. I wrote this to suit the style of the reviews my local newspaper publishes. Comments and criticisms greatly appreciated.))
When the Wachowskis set out to recreate a 40 year old cartoon, you have to think they were aiming at two audiences, preteens that just want to marvel at the flash and bright colors screaming across the screen and their disaffected parents that want a small splash of that childish innocence they held so long ago.
I have good news for the first group. From before the opening ‘Paramount’ scrawl, Speed Racer bathes you in color and lights keeping a fast and light feel for the entire two hour journey. From the brightly clad costumes and neon raceways flying by, it is more fun and cartoony than most recent big screen cartoons. And this is before adding in the intensity of the Imax experience available at some theatres.
But parents will want to watch for one underage middle finger extension and a few mild curse words.
For the second group, if your fond memories derive from the heavy handed drama of whether or not speed racer will be knocked out of the race (he never was) or who really is Racer X, you may enjoy this adaptation as every non-action scene attempts to slam you with melodrama as to how important this race really is. That, and a few touch scenes that call back to the original cartoon is all the nostalgia you’ll find.
Everyone else will find a lighthearted action movie that’s passably acceptable if you can leave your brain at the door as Speed, Emile Hirsch, tries to win races to protect his family and live up to the memory up his super racer brother, Rex.
The cast treats the material with respect. John Goodman acts with a sensible intensity. Hirsch and Christina Ricci, Trixie, have a certain romantic chemistry that would be great in a more serious piece. Roger Allam, Royalton, is as evil and as slimy as possible without becoming a farce. And Paulie Litt, Spritle, with the assist of the monkey Chim Chim, Willy, provide some of the most entertaining moments of the film.
By the time the credits roll, you’ll be either be wishing for an air sickness bag or bouncing around singing the Speed Racer theme song. Either way, it’s one heck of a ride.