Sunday, May 11, 2008

Speed Racer Spoiler-Free Review

I'm kind of struggling to find the right words to describe the Speed Racer movie. I guess the easiest thing I could say about it is that I have never been so happy to get a headache. Speed Racer is some of the most fun I've ever had at the movies.

With it's bright colors, rich details, and incredibly fast racing sequences, the live action Speed Racer movie is not a film that everyone is going to enjoy, or even be able to handle. Motion sickness did kick in for me towards the end of the film. But I had a smile on my face nearly the entire time, and when I wasn't smiling I was gasping in amazement at the incredible visuals. It really looks and feels like no other movie that has come before it. Perhaps this new visual style is an acquired taste, as it has been criticized since the first images were revealed, but I was blown away by it. Speed Racer succeeds in bringing an animated property to life better than anything else, and you simply can't fault a movie for succeeding in being exactly what it wanted to be. The story is structured uniquely as well, with many flashbacks and events not necessarily unfolding linearly.

The cast was pretty much spot on, with everyone looking and acting exactly like their anime counterparts. John Goodman, in particular, was born to play Pops Racer. And Christina Ricci is totally adorable as Trixie. Speed himself is well played by Emile Hirsch as the ultimate do-gooder. And you gotta love Sprittle and Chim-Chim. They were pretty annoying at times, but they were worth a few laughs and kids really liked them. All of these characters really emphasized the family aspect of the movie, and made it more than just a display in special effects. And of course, you've got the original anime bad-ass in Racer X, who is just as cool, if not more so, than he was on the TV show.

Another thing that warrants some attention is the music. The score weaves in the classic soundtrack from the cartoon in both subtle and dramatic fashion over the course of the film. It was exceptionally well done and will fill fans with great memories of the TV series.

This is a movie that really goes all out in being what it is without trying to make sense of adapting the source material into typical Hollywood context. It's clearly set in it's own alternate reality where cars can look and move the way they do and it's not weird at all for the Racer family to name their son "Speed" and have a pet chimpanzee. It just got everything right without either taking itself too seriously or mocking the original show. You either get it or you don't. Speed Racer fans will love it. Speed Racer is much better as a Speed Racer movie than, say, a movie like Transformers is about Transformers. In my opinion, most of the negative press surrounding Speed Racer centers more around critics attempting to write witty headlines like "Speed Racer Crashes" or "Speed Racer Runs Out of Gas" than actually giving the film a chance. Those who do give it a chance will likely find a movie with a lot of heart, warm nostalgic feelings, amazing visuals, and most of all, tons of fun. I have a lot of pity for anyone who doesn't.

So, yeah, Speed Racer is a wild ride, and the rapid paced, crazy camera angles a did give me a headache. But it was the best headache I ever had. Watching this movie was an absolute blast.

Go see Speed Racer!


Splinter's Iroonna said...

And yet it's not doing as well as they'd hoped. Do you think it's so "new" that mainstream doesn't get it?

And no, I've not seen it.

Ninjatron said...

It's not doing well at all, and I really can't figure it out. Critics didn't like it (but who cares), and much of the negative feedback that I've encountered comes from people who haven't even seen it. People just think it "looks stupid" or something. Of course, the Speed Racer fans love the movie, but so do a lot of other people who are only just vaguely familiar with the cartoon. I would say the most of the people who actually saw it are really enjoyed it.

Well, nuts to everyone else, as far as I'm concerned. Speed Racer rocks.