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  Publicity Stills of "Speed Racer"
(Courtesy from GV)

Director: Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski
Cast: Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci, John Goodman, Susan Sarandon, Matthew Fox, Hiroyuki Sanada, Richard Roundtree, Ji Hoon Jung, Benno Furmann, Kick Gurry, Paulie Litt, Roger Allam
RunTime: 2 hrs 9 mins
Released By: GV
Rating: PG
Official Website:

Opening Day: 8 May 2008


Born to race cars, Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) is aggressive, instinctive and, most of all, fearless. His only real competition is the memory of the brother he idolized—the legendary Rex Racer, whose death in a race has left behind a legacy that Speed is driven to fulfill. Speed is loyal to the family racing business, led by his father, Pops Racer (John Goodman), the designer of Speed’s thundering Mach 5. When Speed turns down a lucrative and tempting offer from Royalton Industries, he not only infuriates the company’s maniacal owner (Roger Allam) but uncovers a terrible secret—some of the biggest races are being fixed by a handful of ruthless moguls who manipulate the top drivers to boost profits. If Speed won’t drive for Royalton, Royalton will see to it that the Mach 5 never crosses another finish line. The only way for Speed to save his family’s business and the sport he loves is to beat Royalton at his own game. With the support of his family and his loyal girlfriend, Trixie (Christina Ricci), Speed teams with his one-time rival—the mysterious Racer X (Matthew Fox)—to win the race that had taken his brother’s life: the death-defying, cross-country rally known as The Crucible.

Movie Review:

“The Point”

Speed Racer is a dazzling homage to the old cartoon series. It has those campy good old family bonding fun and the retro futuristic touch up looks stunning. However the blazing fast editing and choreography of speed is a blurry mess. It also tried to cramp too much of Speed Racer’s rich history and characters into one feature length motion picture that it is choking the enjoyment right out of the window. While other CGI effects tried to hide their green screen effects from viewers, Speed Racer made it stand out like a sore thumb.

Disclaimer: Reviewer had never watched a single episode of Speed Racer cartoon in his life and wrote this review purely base on the movie itself.

“The Rant”

Speed Racer, an enduring icon from the sixties and the importance that it plays in today’s pop culture would probably be that it was one of the first Japanese animation (Anime) that made it big in the USA. Some celebrities that had their childhood back in that period, could be found quoted saying how memorable that cartoon series was. There were plans to bring this series back as a motion picture event but after a few failed attempts, the Speed Racer project finally landed in the hands of The Wachowski brothers, the fame directors of The Matrix series and most importantly, a fan of the Speed Racer cartoon series.

Much love could be seen in how they brought their beloved series onto the big screen. Everything sixties about Speed Racer were faithfully preserved and touched up to dazzle today’s audience. Color was spectacularly vibrant. Various cars and race tracks, although a little dated in design, were still stunning to look at.

The wholesomeness of this flick goes well for the general children audience and one that parents wouldn’t have too much explaining to do later. But for those aged slightly older than children to those who aren’t burden with parental duties, might find the plots a little too simple and “goody two shoes” like the Brady Bunch. It’s definitely different from what been offered nowadays so if uniqueness is what you are looking for, Speed Racer is packing a lot of those special traits.

The other good thing that stood out from this family orientated film was how this film dealt with the corruption of sports. The seedy side of sports where out come of the games are decided off the courts, instead of on the courts was a nice wake up call to the reality of major modern televise sports. It makes one wonder how much of the outcome of sport events nowadays are really in the hands of the participants or already pre decided by those big corporate sponsors.

Now onto the speed bumps that keeps one from enjoying the flick.

The age old “biting too much than it can chew” syndrome of condensing a TV series into a Movie presents itself as a problem in this flick. There are the massive subplots involving various characters in Speed Racer’s life that the filmmakers tired to cramp in and sparks some importance with them. There are Speed Racer’s Dad (Pops), Mom, Brother Rex, Girlfriend Trixie, car mechanic Sparky, younger Brother and his chimp who are all trying to fight for screen time and had to do so much of endearing within those limited screen time. And if that isn’t enough, there is still the mysterious Racer X and questionable allied Taejo, which could all be laid out into a trilogy if their stories were to be told correctly. It felt uneventfully short, forceful and derailing while achieving little impact.

Then there are too many characters were introduced and weren’t given the chance to flesh out. Actor such as Hiroyuki Sanada (that guy from Ringu and Sunshine) only had one scene to speak of for his participant in this film as Mr. Musha and spend the rest looming around, doing nothing much, which felt like an waste of his talent. Even Korean megastar, Rain’s Taejo motivation felt mishandled. On one hand, the filmmakers want to play him as the (Spoiler )bad guy (Spoiler End) but it seems that they are afraid of offending the legion of fans and made him (Spoiler) “cheered for the hero that he just betrayed???” (Spoiler End). There is far too little time here to make the constant switch for Rain’s character and not resolving it.

The biggest fault for Speed Racer would lie in the race itself. Maybe it was super impressive back in the sixties but jumping a car while racing now (no matter how the film tried to hype it or stylize it) felt lackadaisical. The worst part is that this tick is being over utilized and even used for the grand finale. Is there all there is to this one trick wonder?

Then there is the essence of speed that they tried to capture which felt like it was a blurry mess that was similar to those who complained about Transformer. The race difficulties weren’t clearly defined and the sequences weren’t choreographed properly, making it hard to feel the excitement of the race. To make matter worse, it even slice in too much flashback sequences during the race to derail whatever momentum it had going. For better racing films, I would recommend flicks like Jackie Chan’s Thunderbolt and even the Japanese animation Initial D.

Last but not least, the problem with the blue (or should I say green) screen special effects which shouldn’t be after the likes of Matrix and Sin City. Maybe it’s homage to how animation was done back then but it was distracting to see the human characters and their background not blending together well, especially during the motion sequences.

These are some of the problems that withheld me from enjoying the family friendly, Speed Racer. It’s a nice touch to see how the directors are trying to preserve and pays tribute to their favorite anime but then again, I can’t help but feel that Speed Racer is just too dated to go with today’s crowd. Some hardcore fans might disagree with this take and my fellow MX colleagues had easier time enjoying it by just letting what is being shown on screen, flow by and soak in the retro groovy psychedelic fun.

Movie Rating:

(Blazingly vibrant homage to the sixties family friendly cartoon with too much speed bumps on it’s way, making it a tepid ride)

Review by Richard Lim Jr


. Transformers (2007)

. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)

. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

. Initial D (2005)

. Sin City (2005)



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