Length: 135 minutes
Directors: Larry Wachowski (The Matrix; Bound) and Andy Wachowski (The Matrix; Bound)
Writers: Larry Wachowski (The Matrix; Bound) and Andy Wachowski (The Matrix; Bound)
Starring: Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci, Susan Sarandon, John Goodman, Matthew Fox, Scott Porter, Paulie Litt, Kick Gurry, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ji Hoon Jung, Richard Roundtree, Christian Oliver, Benno Furmann, Nayo K. Wallace, Roger Allam, Peter Fernandez, Cosma Shiva Hagen
Leave it to the Wachowski Brothers- the brains behind “The Matrix” trilogy and the lesbian noir thriller “Bound”- to deliver this summer’s most bizarre children’s movie. The film adaptation of the classic/cult Japanimation cartoon series “Speed Racer” comes off as a sincere homage backed with out of this world effects that sometime blow you away and other times have you feel like you’re watching the actors acting in front of the green screen with a Sega Genesis game as their backdrop (or Sega Saturn really if you want to get dorky about it). You have to hand it to them. Even if it has a serious case of A.D.D. and sugar overload, it is a labor of love from it’s makers. There was no half-assing it involved here. Young Speed Racer (Nicholas Elia) dreams of becoming a famous race car driver just like his older brother Rex (“Friday Night Light”’s Scott Porter). The whole Racer family works as a team. Dad Racer (John Goodman) builds the cars with his assistant Sparky (Kick Gurry), while Mom (Susan Sarandon) makes the meals. After a disagreement, Rex leaves the family to go off on his own and a tragic accident occurs. Years later and Speed (now played by Emile Hirsch) has stepped right into Rex’s shoes and is the talk of the racing circuit. He is being courted by an evil corporation named Royalton industries which has a secret agenda in fixing races. Speed is forced to take team with racing rival Racer X (“Lost”’s Matthew Fox), who may or may not be Speed’s presumed deceased brother, Rex. All of this while trying to prepare for the Grand Prix and trying to keep ultra-supportive girlfriend Trixie (a super hot Christina Ricci) happy. The movie is so full of visuals that it’s a bit of an attack on the senses, sometimes in a good way. The Wachowskis are known for the visionary skills and they show off well, even with the Sega backdrops. The problem, though, as it was with the end of the “Matrix” films is that the story and dialogue sometimes take a back seat to those visuals and the action. The brothers are so excited to put it all on the table that they forget that there’s other things that needed to be tendered to to make a successful film- even if it is just for kids. Even the action occasionally is so frantic that it’s tough to decipher just what exactly what in the hell is happening (plus seeing John Goodman kick ass in slow motion is just kind of weird in it’s own right, don’t you think?). The cast is game and know what their directors are looking for, though my main problem with the film was the character of Speed’s little brother, Spritle (Paulie Litt), a hyper and chubby little kid who’s best friend is a monkey named Chum Chum. The character is beyond annoying and appears as if he has sugar pumping directly into his blood stream at all times (there’s also some super strange fantasy sequences involving him too that are really out of place). That aside, the movie is fun, if a bit overlong, though I have feeling most parents that take their kids won’t be reminiscing about when they used to watch the cartoon as much as they will be scratching their heads.