Speed Racer (2008)

What a blast …

I enjoyed this movie for a number of reasons that will be explained as we go along, the basic plot is that there is a kid; surname of Racer, forename of Speed, hence the name of the movie.

For our American cousins surname = last name, forename = first name.

Anyway, he is Speed Racer (played by Emile Hirsch) who is a race car driver like his brother (the brother is is dead), dad runs the garage (played by an aging John Goodman) and mum is the ever hot Susan Sarandon. The love interest is the equally hot Christina Ricci (although she looks like she is in a real cartoon).

This was a cartoon …

I know that this is based on an old cartoon but I have never seen it, from all accounts the quality was somewhat suspect and the stories a bit weak. That cannot be said for this movie (well the graphics anyway), the story is standard fare, the Speed Racer is good and he believes in racing as a sport. He comes down to earth with a bump when the evil business man Royalton (played by Roger Allam) tries to get him to race for him. It comes down to good vs. evil again.

The graphics …

This is probably the main reason to watch the movie, and I suggest that it is at the cinema (that’s the movie theater for you Americans). The colours are bold and brash, the colour pallet is mainly primary which adds to the cartoon feel of the movie as a whole. The directors and the set designers (the term set is probably wrong for this type of movie) must have made this a priority on the movie to give it an out of this world touch, in fact it looks somewhat 60’s style to me.

The races [ not to Formula 1 standards ] …

The real reason for watching the movie is to participate in the experience of the races throughout the movie, the Wachowski brothers have choreographed these to a tee. The track races are so divorced from reality that it is sometimes very hard to know what is going on but it does not matter. There are cars that jump over other cars, make wild turns that are physically impossible, they crash into each other and the only thing that happens to the car is a slight scuff on the paintwork, the drivers never get hurt because there is a system in place that protects them in a ball of bubbles.

On top of that each car has a secret weapon; technically illegal as per the WRL rule book (World Racing League) but it does not stop the teams and the drivers from being devious and creative. Some have rockets, saws, snakes and the like, each weapon matches the drivers personality, a very cool concept, a bit like The Wacky Races but much more violent; I like this :->

The back story …

The races are punctuated with the back story of the dead brother, a law enforcement officer and back stabbing between friends. The younger brother Spritle (played by Paulie Litt) and his chimp add the comic relief to the (sometimes) too serious story for this type of movie.

The Wachowski brother are on the money again …

Andy and Larry are the dudes that gave us the Matrix trilogy, let’s be honest the first one was very very cool, the second was OK and the third was somewhere in the middle. They have a knack of going the whole hog and they have really embraced computer generated movie making. Even the simplest scenes have computer generated effects, that’s why this gets a 10/10 for special effects.

Don’t expect to see photo realism in this movie, obviously the characters are real but the rest of it is probably real only in the computer. It looks like they wanted to make it look like a cartoon, if they did then they succeeded.

Something I didn’t expect …

One that I did not expect was to see so many British actors in the movie, it’s good to see that the Brits are still in demand even for an obviously Hollywood movie, the Wachowski’s know a good thing when they see it (that’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it).

Bottom line …

This is a good fantasy movie for all the family, me and my son thoroughly enjoyed it, good use of a couple of hours). It has something for everyone, the comedy of the younger brother, the computer effects for the for the geeks, the cars and the racing for the boy racers and the heart warming back story for the mums.

There is one final problem to consider, you may find yourself driving a bit faster and taking more chances on the road after watching the movie. In our case we got home 5 minutes quicker than we normally do, time well spent 🙂

Ratings

Overall rating: 9/10 For Special Effects
Special effects: 10/10 (the best in a while)
Acting: 6/10 (OK I suppose)
Music: 6/10 (fine for this type of movie)
Where seen: Movie Theater
Perceived length: Short
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