Despite being a cartoon junkie in my early days, I didn’t have “Speed Racer” on my radar, unless you count tuning in just to sing along with the theme song.
However, I recently found myself pulled to the movie theater to see the Wachowski Brothers’ film adaptation of the cult favorite. I blame it on my post-“Into the Wild” Emile Hirsch haze.
Hirsch plays the title character, Speed, a boy gifted with extremely good driving skills.
It is clear from the opening scene that racing is never far from Speed’s mind. Instead of working on a math problem, he imagines being in the driver’s seat at the Grand Prix.
He admires his older brother, Rex Racer (Scott Porter), who is considered to be the best racer in the world. After his brother’s tragic demise at the Casa Cristo 5000, Speed races with his brother’s ghost, refusing to break his brother’s world record when the opportunity arises.
Naturally, his impressive win gets him the attention of big-time corporation, Royalton Industries. The owner (Roger Allam) wines and dines the Racer family to get Speed on his team, but something strange is afoot. It’s not the head honcho’s quizzical eyebrows (which give away his sinister intentions); it is the plot.
In one scene, Mr. Royalton talks about fixing the races and blackmailing people into signing with them. I wasn’t paying too much attention because, honestly, I was too distracted by the colors in the background. Dazzling colors and beautiful scenery in movies always attract my attention, but these were pulling it far away from the people who were talking and giving away plot details.
One minute I was staring at them in fascination and the next thing I know, Speed was teaming up with Stephen Colbert’s nemesis, Rain, and the mysterious Racer X (Matthew Fox) to take down Royalton Industries and their race-fixing ways.
In fact, the fluorescent colors make the two-hour, 15-minute running time go by in a jiffy. It wasn’t the acting or the campy dialogue that moved it along, it was the imagery.
Besides the Crayola box on screen, the only thing I really liked about the movie was the way the Grand Prix finale took my imagination to another place. The metal spikes coming out of the track in an obstacle course way made me think how great that would be in real life auto-racing. (That and modified cars with sledgehammers coming out of the trucks.) I would so get on the racing train if that happened.
I don’t see that happening anytime soon, just as I don’t foresee myself watching “Speed Racer” again. Sure, adding awe-inspiring CGI, Emile Hirsch and ninjas to your movie is a good start, but you can’t do much if one cannot even pay attention to anything besides those.
I gave this film a C-.
Dedra Cordle is a Messenger staff writer.