Despite being a cartoon watching junkie in the early days, "Speed Racer" was never much on my radar, unless you count tuning in just to sing along with the theme song.
However, I found myself being pulled to the theaters to see the Wachowski Brothers adaptation of this cult favorite cartoon. I blame post "Into the Wild" Emile Hirsh haze.
Hirsh plays the title character Speed, a boy who has the gift of being an extremely good driver. Because of that, I do not believe he is from this planet.
It is clear from the opening scene that racing is never far from Speed’s mind. Instead of puzzling out a mathematical equation, he imagines being in the driver’s seat at the Grand Prix.
He admires his older brother Rex Racer (Scott Porter) who is considered the best racer in the world. After his tragic demise at the Casa Cristo 5000, Speed races with his brother’s ghost, refusing to break his world record when Speed has the opportunity.
Naturally, his impressive win gets him the attention of big-time corporation Royalton Industries. The owner of Royalton Industries (Roger Allam) wines and dines the Racer family in order to get Speed on his team, but something strange is afoot. It is not the head honcho’s quizzical eyebrows (which give away his sinister intentions); it is the plot.
There was a scene where Mr. Royalton is talking about fixing the races and blackmailing people into signing with them, but I wasn’t paying too much attention. Honestly, I was too distracted by the colors that were going on behind them. 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 then the next time I pay attention, Speed is teaming up with Stephen Colbert’s nemesis Rain and the mysterious Racer X (Matthew Fox) in order to take down Royalton Industries and their race fixing ways.
In fact, those fluorescent colors make the two hour and 15 minute running time go by in a jiffy. It wasn’t the acting, or that campy dialogue that moved it right along, it was the stylish imagery that did it.
Besides the Crayola box on screen, the only thing I really liked about the movie was when the Grand Prix finale took my imagination to another place. They had these metal spikes coming out of the track set up in an obstacle course way and I thought how awesome it would be if they really had that at those auto racing venues. (That and modified cars with sledgehammers coming out of the trucks.) I would so get on the racing train if that happened.
Alas, I don’t foresee that happening in the near future, just as I don’t foresee myself watching "Speed Racer" again. Sure, adding awe-inspiring CGI, Emile Hirsh 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.