Speed Racer (2008)

Motivated by the memory of his brother, Rex Racer (Scott Porter), Speed daydreams his way through school and sets about becoming an accomplished racer in his own right. When Arnold Royalton (Roger Allam) – the criminal conglomerate of Royalton Industries – offers Speed a luxury lifestyle in exchange for his signature and services, however, Speed’s decision to stick with his roots and continue to race for the family label, Pops (John Goodman) and Mom’s (Susan Sarandon) Racer Motors, leaves him the target of ‘fixers’; car crashed and facing fines for infringement. Teaming up with fellow racer Taejo Togokahn (Rain) and the mysterious Racer X (Matthew Fox), Speed seeks to expose Royalton’s crimes and put his brother’s untimely death to rest once and for all.

Have you ever tripped,  stumbling after having stood on a toy car, and fallen, retina first, into a trough of sherbet? If not, a warning: this is your dizzying introduction to the world of Speed Racer, a custom built fun house courtesy of the reliably electric Wachowski brothers. By the time your eyes adjust to the searing visuals and warp-speed car races, you will have missed about ten pages of plot and reflexively regressed to your earliest memories of childhood.

Two things should be immediately clear from any synopsis you are likely to read of the Wachowski brothers’ Speed Racer: it is both unashamedly childish and about as needlessly complicated as any fictional sport could be. From the day-glo colour scheme to the gumming, dungarees-wearing monkey, this is children’s entertainment at its most radioactive, full of flashing lights and onomatopoeic dialogue. Most of it, however, will go right over its audience’s hyperactive heads, as it wiles away the minutes in between races in vague discussion of litigation and sporting politics. It really is a beast of its own.

Good thing, then, that you will hardly have time to notice. Boasting special effects that will single-handedly justify the purchase of a Blu-ray player, Speed Racer is every bit as impressive and visually interesting as the directors’ Matrix movies. The races are dazzling, blinding and strangely poetic, while the matte colour pallet perfectly compliments the action; if you can look past the shallow visuals and sugary slap-stick, Speed Racer is a genuine revelation: a live-action cartoon imagined to perfection.

Of course, it helps that Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci, John Goodman and Susan Surandon are on hand to give it their all. Attacking the screenplay with the zaniness it rightfully deserves, the actors successfully offset the churlishness of the younger actors and the flat-tyre that is Korean pop-sensation Rain, giving the movie an absolutely staggering energy. Hirsch is surprisingly well suited in his role at the eye of an e-number storm, providing the perfect cypher for an audience caught in the midst of a two-hour-long seizure.  Everyone is just so delightfully earnest, so belligerently harmless: the characters celebrate victory not with alcohol, but with a nice, wholesome glass of milk.

Though the marathon narrative and juvenile comic relief may put many off (IT’S 235 MINUTES LONG!), there is no denying that the Wachowskis have a captivating eye for visual storytelling. From the feverish editing to the gravity and logic-defying camera work, Speed Racer really is an assault on the senses, its hyperactive sense of fun impossible not to contract. By no means a great movie, Speed Racer is instead a hugely accomplished recreation of the ADHD experience; an experiment in pop filmmaking that is as ambitious as it is refreshing. Fast, exciting and brilliantly fun, Speed Racer is a kids’ movie aimed squarely, unashamedly at kids. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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