Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini


Speed Racer

Speed Racer
Starring:
Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci, John Goodman, Susan Sarandon, Paulie Litt, Roger Allam


Rated: PG for sequences of action, some violence and language
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: May 9, 2008 Released by: Warner Brothers

This photo-realistic family adventure has plenty of visual imagery going for it, rather than much in the way of characters or plot.

Still, Larry and Andy Wachowski's Speed Racer does have an ultra-glossy effect when ideally viewed on giant screens or IMAX venues. The makers of The Matrix trilogy and producers of V For Vendetta work fastidiously off of a 60s classic Japanese anime series.

Starring Emile Hirsch, Christina Riccci, John Goodman, and Susan Sarandon, the picture ideally is suited to boys of the age of those attracted to wholesome fare like the Spy Kids series. But, those out of that sphere might have hoped for something less routine and shorter, beyond the eye candy or something as sweet and fluffy like cotton candy. Moppets will like the Racer's simian pet and youngest son and sibling Spritle (Paulie Litt) who bring some welcome mischievousness to the proceedings.

The Wachowskis cannot get one as giddy as the style when it relates to the cars, racetracks, and high-impact action.

Hirsch has the eponymous role as the son of happily married Pops (Goodman) and Mom (Sarandon) and rides with guston in his Mach 5. The maverick, clean-cut young man isn't interested in an offer from Royalton Industries top executive, a blandly imperious Roger Allam. Speed finds out what the mighty moguls (moved by the "unassailable might of money") do to secure lucrative windfalls and will partner with previous foe, Matthew Fox's mysterious Racer X to win the cross-country "Crucible", a race that claimed his brother's life.

The CGI with the Day-Glo surreal color scheme augment the resolution in a way that make most of the racing sequences a pleasure and high-flying, full-on, with its "car-fu" in a gravity-defying manner.

Within the filmmakers pristine, cutting-edge vision, the planes on view blur traditions of perspective to make the focus come across as a high-tech cartoon. From the local Thunderhead to Fuji Helexicon the tracks simulate ski slaloms and skateboarding venues, among other showy locales with high-definition diorama effect in a quasi futuristic/retro temporal scale.

This salute to the excitement of racing works on an updated prototype of Speed's nifty vehicle, able to achieve a great amount of lateral acceleration, in part by a dramatic rotation of its wheels. The storyline has this same kind of whirling movement of being in a kaleidoscope, but just can't keep from being fun as it makes familiar points about family and business practices. Like the later installments of The Matrix trilogy there is emphasis on an international cast and complex action choreography.

The Wachowskis put Hirsch into travel picture mode within the World Racing League (WRL) over disparate topological settings and around the world. There's nothing similar to the challenging racetracks with plenty of spirals, huge drops dreamed up with striking, often exotic vistas as backdrops.

From Morocco, Italy, and Turkey, to Death Valley, the visual stalwarts, including effects gurus John Gaeta and Dan Glass, use much ingenuity through "bullet-time" in conjunction with super high resolution digital cameras. It's clear, at least through Hirsch, far different here than Into The Wild, the emotions and spirit to reach the destination is a hyped-up competitive rush.

And, with the visual layer and parallel reality a sharp dichotomy is noticed in the details of the brightly saturated simple Racer suburban landscape versus the more Oriental, colder, artificially-influence on the Royalton Industries. The garishness, for some older viewers, may bring memories of Tron, even Dick Tracy, as it is souped-up here for dramatic and comedic purposes.

For what its worth in innovation versus deeper introspection, the Wachowskis can accent something impressively mounted with shades of wealth and power. And, Ricci looks quite comely (shortly coiffed and ruby red lipstick) and driven for her boyfriend in Speed and Goodman and Sarandon admirably acquit themselves as part of the tight dynamic that holds the Racer family together . Built for speed, this Racer is spaciously slick and extravagant, an optimistic family growth hormone looped for trecherous climbs and drops that dazzles only when on the tracks.

  Frank Chris Jim Sam Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
Speed Racer  C      C   B   C         C 

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