Movie Review: Speed Racer (2008)

My husband and I have been playing a free race car game called TrackMania and we’ve become addicted. You fly off ramps, go upside down and avoid obstacles. It is fun because it is just realistic enough to be believable but novel enough to be fun. Movies have to find that same mix of novelty and realism to be enjoyed. Someone should have let Andy and Larry Wachowski in on that secret. They mix Speed Racer as well as chlorine and ammonia go together (look it up, it’s not good).

For those who don’t recall, Speed Racer was a campy anime cartoon that found a following in the states in the late 1960’s and 70’s (I only remember the chimp Chim-Chim). The film follows the exploits of Speed Racer (Young: Nicholas Elia, Old: Emile Hirsch), a boy fixated on race cars and becoming a driver thanks, in part, to his older brother Rex Racer (Scott Porter), who had already raced professionally. At the first chance he gets, Speed becomes a professional race car driver himself, driving the Mach 5, a vehicle built by his father, Pops (John Goodman). He excels of course, much to the ire of a competing outfit, Royalton Industries. Determined to not let the boy win any more races, Royalton (Roger Allam) does everything possible to ruin Speed’s team. Speed, as you may have guessed, must stop him.

Speed Racer is one of the most impeccable examples of why the writer and director should not be the same people. If there had been a proper writer or director, someone probably would have noticed there is only a Saturday morning cartoon episode amount of a plot – it’s taffy-pulled to 129 minutes. The plot, which was so horrible and was challenging for me to summarize, was only slightly more complicated than creative writing projects completed by seven year olds in Ms. Smith’s second grade English as a second language class. I guess the Wachowski brothers thought if they threw the vomitous dialogue between infinite montages, we might not notice the bad taste in our mouths. There is but one memorable line in all of Speed Racer, delivered by John Goodman. “It’s terrible what passes for a ninja these days.” That is funny, even out of context.

If a wise audience member left the theater to go get popcorn, a soda, make a pot roast and give birth to triplets, they would return during the same racing sequence. After twenty minutes there was no plot progression, and we hadn’t met most of the characters. Most of what we saw was Emile Hirsch in his car as the green screen spins a Spirograph race car track behind him.

This leads to another observation – green screens are a double edged sword. They can offer us a world of altered physics and take the audience to worlds we would never see. Green screens are also cheaper, in many cases, than building a set, so directors like the Wachowski brothers use it when they should be building proper sets. The pseudo sets, as I call them, are a horrific cinematic malformation. The wash of spinning colors are newfangled but there is nothing familiar about them, so they are hard to wrap your mind around. When the track looks like the best driver would end up dead on their first go round, there is no way to suspend your disbelief long enough to choke down the abysmal dialogue.

Ultimately, Speed Racer is a fantastical, whirling, spinning, psychedelic abomination with almost no plot, horrific sets and one-liners that would be rejected by Laffy Taffy. Instead of watching this AV Club whack off, stay home, play TrackMania and drop some acid. It will have the exact same affect on your brain.

Critical Movie Critic Rating:
1 Star Rating: Stay Away


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'Movie Review: Speed Racer (2008)' have 14 comments

  1. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 9, 2008 @ 5:10 pm Cake Poker Rakeback

    oh wow! Speed Racer is now showing in our local theaters. thanks to your review, i am having second thoughts spending money to go the theater now. lol i will ask my friend what he thinks. thanks!

  2. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 9, 2008 @ 5:14 pm Posh Post

    oh? hehe my friends already watched the movie but didn’t make a comment. well, i guess they were just there for the cheap thrill. lol anyway, thanks for saving me a few bucks for this lousy flick.

  3. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 9, 2008 @ 9:20 pm vin

    stupid cartoon, stupider movie. why anyone would think otherwise is the question of the day.

  4. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 10, 2008 @ 3:42 pm Te Rino

    I think that speedracer is one the original Anime series. And to see ti come alive into a live action movie is really great. I havent seen the movie yet, but im sure its VERY good by the looks of it

  5. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 10, 2008 @ 9:34 pm Ojay

    Well, from the previews and movie trailers for Speed Racer, your review just about confirms my doubts about watching it. I enjoyed the old television episodes of Speed Racer (Go! Go! Speed Racer lol ;) ), but it looks like this movie will disappoint me.

    Well, even though the kids want to watch it, it looks like I’ll be getting someone else to take them.

  6. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 12, 2008 @ 6:42 am Tracy

    Speed Racer just looks too childish for me. It could have had the potential to be a good flick, but they seemed to really aim it at a small niche age group.

  7. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 13, 2008 @ 10:28 am TheAbsoluteJay

    Suspend your belief for a little while, longer than the reviewer, and go see the movie for yourself instead of just taking this review to heart.

    And for the love of whatever deity you please, don’t go see it if it doesn’t sound remotely interesting to you in the first place.

    Especially if you aren’t in the mood for what it’s going to offer, which is simple eye candy.

  8. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 14, 2008 @ 4:00 am joedel

    I’m still going to see it to experience it for myself. Just wish me luck!

  9. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 14, 2008 @ 1:17 pm LaRae

    TheAbsoluteJay – Sure, they are welcome to waste their time and kill their brain cells. Doesn’t mean it isn’t a crappy movie.

  10. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 15, 2008 @ 5:05 pm patrick

    The Wachowski bros certainly put a lot of effort into making Speed Racer… the movie overall looked and felt like a cross between anime, a kaleidoscope, that Flintstones movie, a video game and the Dukes of Hazard

  11. The Critical Movie Critics

    June 13, 2008 @ 12:04 pm Nikki

    ok, i have been reading a lot of crap like this. SPEED RACER was really good, and all of you people suck. i swear, just because someone has a different taste then you doesnt mean that what they created was bad. Why dont you actually take a look at the amazing graphics and see how far our world has come in the movie bussiness? all you people are really starting to piss me off and i bit my tounge back untill right now, with this stupid review.

  12. The Critical Movie Critics

    October 24, 2008 @ 11:18 am Ivan

    First time i saw this movie i felt a little weird. But this is great. I’m agree with Nikki. I like how this movie looks. Usually people just want to see the “more realisme graphic” movie. Even if this movie doesn’t look like real, but it’s awesome. 4 thumbs up for the Speed Racer Movie! Go Speed! :)

  13. The Critical Movie Critics

    December 6, 2008 @ 8:22 pm Redding

    A bit difficult to sit through. Seemed very close to the original series. I liked it then but I was less than 10 at the time.

    Not much of interest now.

  14. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 22, 2010 @ 9:52 pm Shucks

    All critics except the Chicago Tribune had been bought out by the movie industry to slate Speed Racer with bad reviews

    The fear was that if Speed Racer was hugely successful, then CGI would become the fulcrum of the industry.

    In short, Speed Racer wasn’t attacked by the Critics, rather more specifically, the movie industry was attacking CGI!

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