Speed Racer

I fancied a bit of a departure from my normal film watching/reviewing habits. After hearing massively mixed reviews about “Speed Racer” I thought the only way to be sure in this crazy, crazy world was to watch it myself. Here are the results:

Speed Racer (2008)

The first thing that is noticeable about “Speed Racer” is the fact that it is more colourful than anything else you’ve seen. You’re like a child going into a sweet shop and being in awe of the sheer colours and numbers of all the tooth-rotting treats on display. You get feeling that the Wachowskis (yes, the brothers that directed “The Matrix” trilogy) have really tapped into the mind of a child. Fast cars, sweets, loud noises, a chimp and eye searing colours are all accounted for.

“Go, Speed, go!”

The basic plot is that Speed, the middle child of the Racer family, is obsessed with racing. After the death of his older brother Rex, Speed stiffens his resolve to become the best of the best. Blah, blah, blah. You’ll pick it up soon enough- it’s hardly groundbreaking. Plus, Wikipedia is your friend. The film is based on the “Speed Racer” anime series that was screened in America in the 1960’s and then again in the ’90s. I’m guessing that the “Speed Racer” phenomenon bypassed the good ol’ British Isles.
Anyway, the actual story was much more bearable than I intially thought. Sure, it’s cheesy but with an important difference- it’s not trying to be anything else. It aims directly for the family market and never waivers from trying to be the best family film it can be. It even handles some of the monumental amounts of cheese with surprising skill. Example? Take a look at the opening scene where Speed is close to beating Rex’s record time. Speed deciding to slow down to preserve his late brother’s record could have been a schmaltzfest, but it is done in such a way that it threw me off guard a bit-in a good way. A rare achievement for a film, let alone a film aimed at children.
You may think I’m edging closer and closer to giving “Speed Racer” a glowing review. I’m not. I’m just making it clear that I really respect what the Wachowskis have done. They set out to do a live action anime, and they’ve done it. However, I have problems with some of the other things they’ve done.

Firstly, why is nearly every “bad” character British? Ranging from the aristocratic British toff to the Cock-er-ney thugs, the Hollywood spectrum of British accents is represented here (i.e. two) I don’t notice it in films as much these days, what with terrorism and all its related words making every villian Middle Eastern. But why,”Speed Racer”,why? I thought we were past this, Hollywood! Secondly, as much as I like the primary coloured neon visuals, it can get a bit much sometimes. It’s like having a huge bag of Skittles poured into your eyes. It’s pretty, but it starts to hurt after a while.

“No, he’s going to be the best… if they don’t destroy him first.”

Despite all its flaws, “Speed Racer” does what it set out to do and you can’t help but respect that. Would I recommend it? Yeah- but only because even if you love it or hate it, it’s unlike anything you’ve seen before.

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