I heard how awful Speed Racer is, but I went anyway. I read how inane and retina burning Speed Racer is, but I went anyway. And I’m glad I did.
Speed Racer will be a milestone in film history. The Wachowski brothers, long known for their love of comic books and graphic novels, are the first to successfully make a live-action comic book. Action heroes from the comics have been on the screen for years, but this is the first time a film looks and feels like a comic book mixed with the cartoon Speed racer started as decades ago. Whether that is a positive development, who knows, but it is a variation on film capabilities that is coming of age.
Emile Hirsch plays the eponymous rookie driver, whose racing family supports him despite his ability to do little else and his older brother’s supposed disgracing of the sport. Susan Sarandon plays his hotty mom and Christina Ricci his sexed down girlfriend, Trixy. This might be a good place get Speed to open up about his confusion. The younger brother and pet chimpanzee, whose implausibility even other characters note, waver between comic relief and an annoyance to all but kindergarteners, but deliver some of the best moments of the two hours. And this time the forces of evil are not created by radioactive sludge or bio-hazardous outbreaks, but by mega-corporations stock options. Big business’ bottom line is made into the panic inducing force that has shaped racing history for years behind closed doors. It is Speed Racer’s duty, with his family right behind him, to bring honesty back to the sport.
I am not saying the film is not without its problems. Some of the action is muddled and the acting is over the top. Sit back and enjoy the ride and find out where it takes you. This is a film about the journey, and even includes hints of crossing into spiritual enlightenment a la The Matrix.
Go with an open mind and popcorn in hand. Remember the joy of Saturday morning cartons or reading comic books by flashlight. It’ll make you grin.