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Overall Rating

Awesome: 10.61%
Worth A Look: 13.64%
Average: 13.64%
Pretty Bad: 10.61%
Total Crap51.52%

7 reviews, 24 user ratings

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Speed Racer (2008)
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by Erik Childress

"There's Nothing Speedy About It"
1 stars

Most of the television-to-film adaptations have inspired the kind of vitriol normally reserved for totalitarian coups and entrepreneurial dogfight operators. For every Fugitive there is generally a Scooby-Doo with a Bewitched, Wild Wild West and The Avengers to follow. The perceived attitude to the announcements of such projects come such critical greatest hits like “Hollywood has run out of ideas” and “Was anyone crying out for a such-and-such movie?” When the Wachowski Brothers, the wunderkinds behind the Matrix trilogy, would be bringing cult ‘60s cartoon Speed Racer to the big screen there was reason to at least sit up and wait. After all, their action sequences practically spawned their own genre and, considering their chase scene in The Matrix Reloaded is one of the modern best, the potential for a film that could promise us one long cross-country race makes one giddy at the possibilities. Once you grant them their style though in the film’s elongated 20-minute prologue, Speed Racer devolves into one of the most painfully ill-conceived borefests to ever grace a summer movie season and an easy candidate of one of 2008’s worst films.

Reserved hopes for what’s to come sprout early as The Wachowskis take a cue from Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy and awash us in a palette that could almost cure color blindness. Speed (Emile Hirsch) is in the middle of his latest race on the verge of breaking his elder brother’s track record. Watched on by his family; dad (John Goodman) owns the family company that makes the cars, mom (Susan Sarandon) was the one called into school when his mind drifted to racing and Spritle (Paulie Lutt) is the little brother with a monkey who now looks up to him the way Speed did to Rex Racer (Scott Porter) who tragically died after disgracing himself in his final race. There’s also the loyal Trixie (Christina Ricci) who has been with Speed ever since the schoolyard playground.

The corporate world also has their eye on Speed and Royalton (Roger Allam) is prepared to take him on under the conditions that he pimp their product and leave dad’s business behind. While the money certainly couldn’t hurt, the Racers have that “corporations are the devil” mentality that could have saved Chris McCandliss a lot of time and energy. Turning them down puts a target on Speed’s back and makes him an ideal candidate for the mysterious Racer X (Matthew Fox) who is involved in some elaborate scheme to take down the man once and for all and bring purity back to the world of racing or some nonsense crusade that’s about as noble as a campaign to make the public believe that the WWE is real.

Elaborate is putting it lightly when it comes to Speed Racer’s plotting, a word that I’m normally happy to welcome into any discussion of cinema these days, but not when I can barely relate to you exactly what Racer X’s plan precisely was just a few hours removed from the screening. It may all be simple in nature but the Wachowskis have put the audience in the position of having random blackouts at the amount of exposition stuck between the racing sequences; a different sort of pill to swallow in the form of a hero who is so personality-free that they would have been better off going Clutch Cargo on us if they were so desperate to keep with the aesthetic of its era. This is not a knock on Hirsch, who does little but either mope or stare blankly in reaction, but on the Brothers themselves who have written themselves into some corner dead zone where their title character becomes a supporting player in his own story.

Coming back to the racing sequences, which is something that would have been advisable to the filmmakers more often, after the initial introduction to the world that looks like a pinball’s version of the Rollerball remake, we’re nearly an hour in before we get to the unrestricted landscapes that the show was known for. And if they were worth the wait, the random snoring from the audience could be forgiven. Except they are so one-note, uninspired and less exciting than the loopty-loop remote control tracks you would get for Christmas, that it’s shocking at who’s responsible for them. At first it’s just a twisty track where every car drifts more than they throttle. Add in a constant rubbing between the opponents that’s so furious it’s a wonder why anyone made such a big deal about Rex’s antics at all. Top if off by repeating everything ad nauseum which you would notice if you knew who the hell was doing what to whom at any given moment. The final race (which begins at the 111-minute point) is so jumbled and confused that you wouldn’t be scorned if you thought Matthew Fox had morphed into Edward James Olmos.

With the exception maybe of Renny Harlin’s Driven, I couldn’t think of one racing film or racing sequence that I wouldn’t rather have been watching to replace any single scene of Speed Racer (and that includes last year’s Redline.) If the Wachowskis were in anyway inspired by even something like the Pod Race in The Phantom Menace (itself inspired by Ben-Hur’s breathless chariot experience) at what point were they going to be intent on delivering the next echelon the way they did with The Matrix? Their writing skills have never been in question (from Bound to the underrated V For Vendetta), so how could they misfire so drastically? Was a jump from edgier “R”-rated material to a family-friendly “PG” (albeit with a lot of punching, unnecessary cursing, deadly car crashing and piranha attacks) really beyond their grasp? Corny, at least, would have been something to comment upon. The younger brother is about as annoying as characters come, even by kiddie humor standards, but the poker faced seriousness of Speed Racer removes the one aspect of Speed Racer that should have been a no-brainer to achieve. Fun.

Speed Racer is simply not fun on any level. Not for the action junkies hoping to see the Wachowskis throw out the old wheels. Not for the speed freaks hoping that the IMAX experience will give them the adrenaline rush of the rollercoaster ride the drivers are put through. Not for anyone hoping to reattach themselves to the joy of being that little kid who crashed his Matchbox cars into others when not launching them off porches and kitchen tables. It’s a bonafide disaster of a project that’s going to give Michael Bay more ammo for his existence. Left to rely on their old standards of slow motion destruction and impromptu martial arts battles, the Wachowskis reach the finish line at two hours-plus (as the credits begin rolling) and from 0-to-126, Speed Racer feels as long as it did from the beginning of the Matrix’s journey in 1999 to its completion four years later. Only there’s no One to save us all from this apocalyptic nap-inducer.

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originally posted: 05/09/08 14:00:00
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User Comments

2/05/11 Roy Smith A fist wrapped in glow ropes pounding a human face forever. 1 stars
12/18/10 chaotik tom Worst special effects than Mary Poppins, and that was made 50 years ago! 2 stars
9/26/10 matt actually pretty good 4 stars
9/23/08 The Anti-Douche This film has cult written all over--it's so post-post. 5 stars
9/21/08 Steven James Parker Well I saw it just for Christina! The movie has his moments. Some cheesy ones and some good 3 stars
7/05/08 Samantha Pruitt saw it in IMAX, thought it was like an acid trip, that's a good thing 5 stars
5/26/08 George Barksdale we didn't like it 1 stars
5/17/08 Ty, The MOVIE REPORTER If you sat middle beyond from screen, I'm not surprised you didn't like it. Sit closer! 5 stars
5/15/08 sucker Only saw the previews; I think I'll rather wait for the video game 1 stars
5/15/08 --- My 4 yr old nice actually said "do we have to stay for the whole movie?" SUCKED. 1 stars
5/13/08 Random The Wachowski's pulchritudinous spectacle proves them visionary, yet juvenile. 4 stars
5/13/08 Noexit Movie perfectly captured the original cartoon series. 5 stars
5/12/08 Phil Buckley-Mellor The worst film I have seen in 40 years, all involved should be ashamed 1 stars
5/12/08 Nathan Explosion This film made me sad because so many people died of brain aneurysms while watching it 1 stars
5/11/08 Peppercorn Tabernacle This horrible movie made me fart through my penis hole. 1 stars
5/11/08 Blackbrain 5 years ahead of it's time. If you don't like it, your too old. 5 stars
5/11/08 Brian Mckay Everything I loved (and hated) about the cartoon. If you didn't grow up watching, don't go. 4 stars
5/10/08 Darkstar Holy shit this movie sucks!!!!!!!! It's a cool idea, just poorly executed. Very, very bad 1 stars
5/10/08 damalc would have liked more over-the-top acting to match racing sequences 3 stars
5/10/08 brad don't leave the acid at home. better grab the mescaline too. 5 stars
5/10/08 DickPeterJohnson I need to screw Christina Ricci's smelly tushy! 1 stars
5/09/08 Adrian Watch it on psychedelic drugs. Trust me. 5 stars
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  09-May-2008 (PG)
  DVD: 16-Sep-2008


  DVD: 16-Sep-2008

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