Speed Racer: Despite the title, you'll only feel like you're on drugs....

A classic Japanese children's cartoon revamped by the creators of The Matrix? If you think that's weird, you should see the movie...

Nevertheless, following a critical panning the film has gained a small group of loyal fans. Does it deserve it or are they just being contrary? Hit the jump to find out:

Another 'cards on the table' moment: if you never watched the cartoon as a kid, you're going to struggle to like this movie. It really is an ode to the cartoon, or what the cartoon could have been with modern sensibilities and CGI effects. Still, we think the enlightened Gort-fans reading this may just have quirky enough tastes to enjoy the film as a novelty; as "quirky" is the key phrase here.

Speed Racer (yes, that's his actual name) is the middle son of Mom and Pops Racer (yes, that's their actual names), owners of an family-run team who build and race their own cars in a futuristic racing league that amounts to something like Wipeout with wheels. Speed is a hot young talent, but living in the shadow of his older brother Rex, who died tragically amidst controversy at the height of his abilities. After Speed refuses to sign with a large conglomerate and give up his independent status, he becomes a target in a previously-shrouded world of race fixing and politically-motivated racing. He is saved/recruited by the Batman of the racing circuit, a mysterious superhero known only as RacEr X (don't worry, even the film's characters pick up on that and it's not quite that simple...), and the two set out on a quest to win the Grand Prix and take down the villainous head of the nasty corporation that's after them.

The family is joined by Christina Ricci geeking out as Speed's girlfriend Trixie and team mechanic Sparky, while comic relief comes from Speed's little brother Spritle and his pet monkey Chim-Chim. The slapstick pair are borderline annoying, but also manage to raise a few smiles. Elsewhere, the cast is rounded out with John Goodman and Susan Sarandon as Speed's parents, with Lost's Matthew Fox as Racer X. Far and away the standout performance, however, is Roger Allam, as the evil Mr Royalton, who steals every scene he's in as he does in V for Vendetta.

Still, the main event here is the frenetic races, which are somewhere between an epileptic fit and a kaleidoscopic lightening storm. The direction matches, with talking heads of characters delivering lines while spinning across the screen as the separator in screen wipes and a non-linear plot structure. At one point, for example, our villain narrates a threat to Speed that comes to life in the background, before we snap back to the present where Speed tells Allam to do his worst, before we jump forward to after the event once more. It is truly to the credit of the Wachowskis that they manage to do all of this without losing the plot. As it stands the frenetic pace and amazing visuals make for a thrilling ride.

The cast and crew are clearly having a fantastic time, as evidenced by a scene that reveals the entire Racer family are also martial arts experts as they take down a group of ninjas. You really have a choice here: go with it and have fun too, or pile on the scorn and hate this movie. If you've ever seen the cartoon, you'll love this; if you let yourself go with the weirdness, you'll have fun. Personally speaking, we love this film and we hope we're not alone.

1 comment:

  1. I did enjoy it, But in places it was like watching a kid with A.D.D. smash up your house with a baseball bat and that made it fun...