SPEED RACER - Ray's Review

Being an audience member at SPEED RACER is like being Malcolm McDowell in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, except our eyes are pasted open by the paralysis-inducing wretch of color and light. We weep, not for experiencing our first emotion, but rather our last.

The Wachowski Brothers Based on the Speed Racer animated series created by Tatsuo Yoshida Starring: Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci, John Goodman, Susan Sarandon, Matthew Fox, Benno Furmann, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rain, Richard Roundtree, Kick Gurry, Roger Allam, Scott Porter, Anatole Taubman, Nicholas Elia Distributed by Warner Brothers Film will be released in the U.K. and U.S. on May 9th 2008 Review by Ray DeRousse

rating: 0.5

The seventies cartoon SPEED RACER did not burn rubber in the imaginations of an entire generation of young boys due to its gorgeous animation, deep characterization, or labyrinthine plotting. The cartoon succeeded because of THE CAR. Yes, the Mach Five was the dream car for boys all around the world. Our minds reeled at the possibilities afforded us in the hum-drum world if we were behind the wheel of that extraordinary vehicle. That simple device was the chassis upon which was built a very successful - though not successfully animated - cartoon classic. And it's the one thing the Wachowski's forgot in this completely stillborn remake. The Wachowski's insisted from the beginning that they wanted to keep the "children's show" aspect of the cartoon intact; this was going to be a kid's movie, not an adult version of the show. Great. But then they proceed to vomit out a movie so thoroughly incomprehensible and complicated that it can do nothing but bore/alienate/lobotomize kids everywhere. I will not attempt to summarize it simply because it cannot be understood. I defy anyone to completely explain this film that isn't either the Wachowski Brothers or their team of therapists. I will describe it thusly: Take the mindbendingly complex plotting of the entire Godfather trilogy, and then imagine it if it was filmed through a filter of the stargate sequence in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY using actors from TRON. That, in a nutshell, is this movie. Before I eviscerate everything else, let me point out the lone positive aspect of this entire production: the performances of the cast. Everyone is, for the most part, terrific in their roles ... even the fucking monkey. Particularly good were John Goodman and Susan Sarandon as Speed's parents, bringing a depth not evident in either the old show or the new script that was apparently conjured from a piece of toilet paper dangling from the asshole of a homeless person. Emile Hirsch is surprisingly effective as Speed, providing just the right touches of naivete and aggression to the role. Christina Ricci is, of course, sexy, while Matthew Fox apparently portrays a somnambulist in black leather named Racer X. These performances are torpedoed by a lifeless, misguided script that confuses the term "motivation" with "unending backstory." The first fifteen minutes of this overlong film (two hours and fifteen minutes for a KID'S movie?? Are you kidding?) consists of flashbacks within flashbacks. I counted four in all, including one from Rex Racer's point of view. Such ridiculous overplotting is completely unnecessary for film based on SPEED RACER. It needs a simple story of good versus evil and right versus wrong; save the rest for THE MATRIX REWIRED. However, given the art direction and overproduction with which this abortion was created, no amount of screenplay editing could have saved it from oblivion. I admire radical directorial choices, I really do. But when characters and backgrounds smear around like a swirl of fast food diarrhea, even a Dr. Seuss story would leave my head spinning. The racing scenes here, which represent about a third of the film, are so frenetically cut and computerized that it's impossible to discern what's going on. Cars spin wildly and constantly, bashing into each other at such close range and so quickly that the brain, which is nature's greatest computer, cannot keep up. These out-of-control races take place on color-smeared racetracks against flashing, colored backgrounds. The brain finally gives up, leaving any cognitive being in their seat with their mouth hanging open in stunned shock. The cumulative effect of this visual overload is an indifference to any action onscreen. The Wachowski's are clearly gunning for a feel-good, Star Wars-like finale, but instead there is only an exhausted gasp. Being an audience member at SPEED RACER is like being Malcolm McDowell in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, except our eyes are pasted open by the paralysis-inducing wretch of color and light. We weep, not for experiencing our first emotion, but rather our last. Believe me, this is the most misguided attempt at a summer film since HULK, even though that was a decent film that simply didn't fulfill genre expectations. It's actually difficult to find comparative examples of atrocity. Maybe the Matthew Broderick version of GODZILLA? Maybe ISHTAR? I cannot overstate the wrongness of this entire production. It fails on almost every level. A monumental disaster. Movie lovers can now relax; nothing this summer can fail worse than this.
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All you need to know is that I love movies and baseball. I write about both on a temporary medium known as the Internet. Twitter: @rayderousse or @unfilteredlens1 Go St. Louis Cardinals! www.stlcardinalbaseball.com