Genre: Action, Fantasy, Racing
Film Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)*
*additional content may not be rated
The kind of film you either love or hate, Speed Racer manages to meld B-movie hokum with A-list production values. The result is a razzle and dazzle racing movie that 10-year-old boys and their 40-year-old dads will unabashedly adore (or should) while moms and sisters will likely cringe at the thought of watching it a second time, much less a hundredth.
Though the movie can be easily dismissed out of hand for break-neck editing, a color palette confined to a 24-pack of Crayolas, and the fantastical premise of race cars that drive like so much whirling, twirling, maliciously leaping, smash-bang exotic gizmotica, that's also exactly what makes Speed Racer so perfectly excellent.
It's a Wachowski Brothers film, after all, and it's not like you'd expect The Matrix writers/directors to soft-shoe-horn classic Saturday morning Anime into a conventional, 1-dimensional summer fluff film; Speed Racer revels in its hopelessly improbable premise, couching a family-values morality play within a raucous, rip-roaring racing fairy tale.
And it's more than a mere cartoon-based movie, too. It's what one might have imagined the Saturday morning cartoon of the 60s (and decades of reruns) to look like if only those guys, those cars, those harrowing race tracks were real. No small feat translating the collective imagination of a generation to a live-action iteration for another.
Too, though usually upstaged by the fantastic eye-candy action, there be some acting going on in Speed Racer, with the more outstanding performances found in the supporting cast.
Christina Ricci manages to emote raw, come-hither sexuality yet veils it sternly in the film's boyish, kissing-gives-you-kooties sensibilities.
Mathew Fox pulls off the role of mysterious stranger (Racer X) with wooden certainty; echoes of Clint Eastwood and Spaghetti Westerns, except with far-out cars and bubble gum-ish superfluities.
And, as you'd expect, Susan Sarandon and John Goodman as mom and dad (er, "Pops") lend their considerable credibility to the story's overarching "family first" theme.
How a pet monkey worked its way into the script is anybody's guess, but the kids sure seem to eat up that slapstick relief shtick.
Slim pickings in the DVD's bonus content, though the featurette on the film's cars, drivers and tracks is well worth watching for the fantasy drool factor while the behind-the-scenes tour is revealing of the unique technicalities of a unique, live action cartoon.
Still, at only 15 minutes a pop, the bonus content is not something you'll revisit over and over. But the movie is.
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