After loaning their names as producers for films like "V for Vendetta", The Wachowski Brothers return to their director's chairs for the first time since "the Matrix" trilogy with a feature film adaptation of the classic anime series from the sixties, "Speed Racer". The "Speed Racer" movie reconfirms the ability of the Wachowski's to convince a major studio to spend massive amount money on a movie that's high on over the top visuals and low on story fiber.
Watching the "Speed Racer" movie is like attending an over-amplified seven year old's birthday party without the cake. The fatigue of being constantly bombarded with loud noises, bright colors and flashing lights sets in as soon as you walk through the door and doesn't let up until you stagger away from the event, with a scrambled brain and in need to some personal quiet time in a dark and calm place. The non-stop assault of colors and overloaded screen layouts becomes so intense that I'd recommend bringing eye-drops with you to the theater so you can try to keep watching the "Speed Racer" movie without having your eyeballs fall out.
While I applaud the Wachowski's attempt to emulate a lot of the fun and funky transitions and set ups established in the original "Speed Racer" cartoons, the length of the film running two hours and fifteen minutes, plays at least 45 minutes too long. At least at ninety minutes the movie would feel like less of an endurance contest, and we'd perhaps be spared some of the numerous story speed bumps that take the movie from 60 to zero with long sidebars chock full of the family centric message moments that were most likely demanded by executives in conference rooms at the major studio pouring all of the funding into the film. And while studio wants to present "Speed Racer" as a movie with family values, somehow it seems ok by them to include several scenes with guns and mob violence that seem unnecessary and out of place.
The scenes that shift the movie back into slow gear include several 'heart to heart' talks the parent figures have with Speed throughout the movie. Though as tedious and pandering her lectures may be Susan Sarandon's presence as Speed's mom makes her scenes watch-able. All this and she makes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches too. Go Speed Go. John Goodman who is cast as Pops Racer, seems more reminiscent of Mario the plumber from the Nintendo games than a race car designer and maker. But perhaps his character is part of the larger nod to videogames in the rest of the movie, where the race scenes look like a cross between levels of Mario Kart and the early Wipeout game by Pysgnosis on the Playstation 1.
In any case, the casting includes some bright spots as we're reminded how cute and spunky Chistina Ricci really is, and that Matthew Fox's brooding look that he's developed for "Lost", works for his depiction of the brooding character Racer X. The most enjoyable parts of the film are probably the sideline moments that feature Speed's younger brother Spritle and his chimpanzee friend Chim-Chim. These scenes which frequently divert into comic book style panels and animations provide enough crazy hijinx, that if edited separately together could survive as its own twenty minutes of senseless goofy primate laden slapstick comedy. Chim-Chim follows the time honored tradition for how to make a story more enjoyable - when in doubt add a monkey.
Still looking for a copy of the Alpha Team Go Speed Go remix as a high quality MP3 - for Movie Magazine, this is Purple.
© 2009 - Purple - Air Date: 5/14/08
USA - 2008