May 18, 2008


Let's face it, this movie has gotten less than stellar reviews; it's been called a flop, and some people even claim that the Wachowski Brothers have lost their touch.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong wrong.

The Wachowski Brothers got it exactly right: this is exactly what a movie based on SPEED RACER should be.

The story, the actors, the design team - they captured the very essence of the anime that hooked me as a kid.

Some reviewers complained about the blaringly bright palette used by the design team; the Racer home is a blaze with color, in endlessly distracting patterns. But it took me right back to my sofa, back in the mid-60's. Suddenly, I was six years old again. 40 years melted away as I bounced on the seat with anticipation. I cheered when Speed gets through with the Mach 5. I laughed as I saw the villians get what they deserved. I groaned as Sprytle and Chim-chim got themselves into another mess trying to feed their greedy hunger for candy.

This is the real thing; a highly-stylized world that isn't anything like ours, and yet mirrors parts of it. Inspector Detector seems to have been pulled out of an early James Bond movie, and the Mach 5 has more gizmos than any bond film. This is the grandchild of Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang. THIS is why we love Speed Racer.

Now, I won't say that the movie is perfect; nothing ever is. I did feel that the grand prix racing sequences at the end were some of the weakest scenes in the movie. Racing is not about speed as much as it is control, and the Mach 5 is shown spinning wildly out of control through most of the race, although somehow it always manages to be at the right place at the right time.

But believe it or not, Speed Racer has never been about racing. Sure, there's a race in every episode. But those episodes were not about the race, they were about what it takes to win the race. And that's not having a fast car and a lead foot: you succeed only with the support of your family and friends. A cheater may win an occasional race, but they will never be a winner.

While the Mach 5 is fast, and its gizmos clever, Speed must figure out the best way to employ speed and guile. He has to consider possibilities. And he must have help. In this movie, as in the series, the importance of family is the most important trait of all. He only triumphs when he lets his family and friends help him. Singly, Team Racer has its flaws; together, they are unstoppable.

As in the series, the family is shattered when oldest brother Rex Racer leaves the family racing team to strike out on his own; an angry Pops Racer roars "If you walk through that door, don't ever come back!" But Rex is determined to be his own man, and walks out into the obligatory dark and stormy night.

Rex does not come back: his family watches in horror as his car is consumed in a fireball during a road rally race.

Ten years later, Speed is offered a chance on a larger, better-funded racing team. As Speed leaves the house to give his answer to the sponsor, Pops again meets a son walking out the door, but this time he reflects on the past. "Son, I didn't lose Rex on that race track ten years ago; I lost him right here."

He tells Speed how proud he is of him, and that whatever he chooses, the door will always be open. He has found the true place in his sons' lives. It was a great performance by John Goodman. Susan Sarandon as Mom Racer is the great peace-maker, who recognizes her son's talent and defends it tooth and nail and feeds it plenty of PB&J sandwiches.

And I have to say, Christina Ricci simply blew me away. I've been a fan for years, but I kept forgetting that we were watching the girl who played Wednesday Adams up there on the screen. She's always done great work, but this is the first time I have only seen the character she is portraying.

Her Trixie is just as bright a ball of positive energy as her animated counterpart. It's difficult to play such a positive character without coming off as, well, cartoonish, but Ricci pulls it off masterfully. As portrayed by Ricci, Trixie is absolutely devoted to Speed, but isn't some simple-minded seat-cover. She's smarter than he his, and strong enough to keep up with him. This Trixie is no damsel in distress; she's a liberated woman of the twenty-first century.

And frankly, she's never looked hotter.

If you liked Speed Racer, if you're a fan of anime, you should see this movie, and see it on the big screen. Screw the critics. They obviously weren't there on the couch in front of the TV taking on the Monster Car.


  1. "mammoth car" ;p. I am totally with you. I do think there were some semi corny parts and one could argue that there were those moments in the anime/cartoon but to be honest, they didnt do enough to detract from how much i enjoyed the film. I think you really do have to be a Speed Racer fan at an older to dig it. I love that they had so much of the original music (well versions of them). I dont know if the truck at the beginning was supposed to be the mammoth car but it had cruncher block in it like the original so i would assume. Whatever, im rambling. Bottom line, it was completely worth the money and thumbs up for you and all the others that dont base their movie viewing on reviews.

  2. I did like the movie. And his family was really what any family should be, they stuck together no matter what and supported their son and tried to protect him. I think the plot and cast were good, but I agree about the corny moments. I never watched Speed Racer as a kid but I love old cartoons. i think that the movie was worth watching. my friend said it wasn't. but that was before I saw it. I think that whoever reviewed that movie is an idiot. (but thats just my personal oppinion.) it was good, i would watch it again. The movie was touching to me because I understood some of the deeper aspects. it also had some classic villians who do what they do, not for the thrill or love of the game but for their own greed. Speed was the protagonist who does everything right and does what he loves to do because he love to do it and tries to do what is best for his family. Rex i think represtnts shade of gray. he tries to do what is best for his family and be his own person. and in the end he does what he believes is right even though it hurts them. it shows that we sometimes have hard decisions to make and you cant always tell if it is the right one. okay. that was really long. i'm done now. bye.

  3. I became mildly interested in Speed Racer during one his revivals in the early 90s. But I was never really a fan (I did have a shirt circa 1995). But I happen to love the film. Like you said, the Wachowskis nailed it. It is the fusion of anime and live action that it promised to be, with a heart-warmingly whole story about family, DIY, the little guy, in short David versus the Goliath of corporate greed. Somehow the film manages to be hokey without (with a few notable exceptions) taking you out of the world. Speed's childhood is brilliantly (and literally) illustrated. During the final race (which I would agree was less developed than the previous races), as Speed discovers his raison d'etre, I swear I saw the Matrix, and the entire universe made sense to me. I wasn't sad, but I swear, my eyes were streaming. On Blu-Ray, it turns out, you can see even more than in the theater (but it's not quite as overwhelmingly intense). Including a little nod to Rumiko Takahashi's Ranma 1/2.

  4. I'm 16 and I never saw the anime, so I guess I've never been a proper fan. But when I saw the film it "gave me goosebumps" ;D
    I was told never to see the film as the Wachowski Brothers had aparently "lost their touch", however as 'The Matrix' was such a perfect film I thought it must be LIES! It was beautiful. Spot on. Perfection. I fully recommend anyone who hasn't seen Speed racer to watch it ASAP.
    Oh and I agree with che in the sense that my eyes were also streaming when I watched the last race. I don't know why. It feels like you've found out the meaning of life, or somethng like that. :s
    Bye x

  5. I grew up watching Speed Racer, too, and I agree completely: word for word. The movie was perfect: chills-down-my-spine perfect. The incorporation of design and themes from the series was amazing, and the characters were all played amazingly well. It was even better than the original.