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Speed Racer

Filled with revved engines and vroom! visuals, Speed Racer is the perfect movie for video-gaming kids--but for others it may just cause migraines.


The big-screen, live-action adaptation mostly captures the look and feel of the '60s cartoon many of us grew up watching. It could have used a few more occurrences of our favorite line, "Look out, Speed! AH!" but oh well. As it goes, Speed (Emile Hirsch) has grown up with motor oil pumping through his veins, helping his Pops (John Goodman) make racecars and idolizing his older brother Rex (Scott Porter), a top-notch driver. Then tragedy strikes when Rex is seemingly killed in an accident. Heartbroken, Speed is determined to take his place, showing some serious skills on the track. His girlfriend Trixie (Christina Ricci) thinks he's the bomb, as do his mom (Susan Sarandon), younger brother Spritle (Paulie Litt) and pet chimpanzee Chim-Chim. But Speed is soon in for a rude awakening when he is introduced to the corrupt world of auto racing, forcing him to team up with the mysterious Racer X (Matthew Fox) to make it right again. Go, Speed, go!


The usually somber Hirsch--who is best known for his indie work in films such as Alpha Dog and Into the Wild--seems, at first, an odd choice to play Speed. But his seriousness works well against the campiness surrounding him, especially in the more emotional moments. Same goes for Fox as the stoic Racer X. Still, one can't help but think of him as his Lost alter ego in a dark glasses and a mask. The rest of the cast just has way too much fun, including Ricci as the cute-as-a-button-but-full-of-moxie Trixie, Goodman as the blowhard Pops and especially young Litt as Spritle. Out of all Speed's animated characters re-envisioned, Litt does the best job, capturing Spritle's cartoon mischievousness. The monkey ain't bad, either. Chim-Chim, AH!


Oh, those Wachowski brothers (Andy and Larry). They sure do like to come up with as many inventive ways to visually stimulate you as they can, don't they? Their Matrix series set CGI on fire--and now Speed Racer, which quite literally takes you inside a video game the Wii or Xbox could only dream of ever creating. The film is virtual eye candy from start to finish--a mixture of Tim Burton-esque colorful sets, wild adrenaline-filled special effects and constant camera movements. They may actually need to post a warning for those who suffer from motion sickness. However, Speed's main problem, which is the same problem the Matrix franchise suffered from, is its tendency to overanalyze the plot. The Wachowskis love to preach, turning a scene about the racing world's corrupt beginning into a 15-minute diatribe. They try to combine the campiness of the animated TV series with serious undertones, but it only weighs the film down. You can feel the kids in the audience tapping their feet, waiting for more action. So, let's just give the kids what they want: fast-paced excitement, wrapped up in a colorful package.

Bottom Line rated this film 2 1/2 stars.