Directed by: Andy and Larry Wachowski
Surprisingly enough, I DIDN’T grow up on Speed Racer. I was way too far into GI Joe and Transformers and MASK and Thundercats and every other comic/toy property that the 80’s had to offer. I just never got the Speed Racer bug. The most I ever got into Speed Racer was the techno song with the orgasmic crescendo that was all the RAVE in the 90’s.
So, going into this pseudo live action movie version was something entirely new for me. I knew nothing of back story, origins, or mythology. I just knew it was a kid that raced a car.
Now, the Wachowski brothers I am well aware of. From their lesbian thriller Bound to the infamous Matrix trilogy, their style and cinematic flair was no mystery to me. Naturally, I expected big things from their side of the court as they have proven in the past that they are a force to be reckoned with. Cinematically speaking.
I knew that the Wachowski’s would bring their blend of flair and hyperbole and even figured that they would attempt to reinvent the celluloid wheel to an extent. From the trailers it looked to be an unusual and overwhelming blend of CGI, live action, and anime. It also sparked much controversy, mostly over the Wachowski’s possibly being too self indulgent in the adaptation and pulling a “Lucas,” robbing fans of the original cartoon of their precious live action realization.
While I have been a part of the fan “boo hoos” with the likes of Star Wars, etc., I have long since gotten over myself and let the creative powers that be have their fun and interpret the material without groveling like a child that just found out daddy’s been molesting me since I was nine through regressive therapy. It’s really high time for the “children of the 80’s” to grow the fuck up. It’s okay to not agree or like a particular adaptation, but until they are the ones behind the lens then they need to ease up.
We don’t have to have Optimus Prime as the original make and model of semi-truck in the feature film as he was in the cartoon in order to stay true to the source material. The pop-culture nitpicking has gotten to a sickening level.
Okay, now that that’s off my chest. You just want to know if I liked this motherfucker, right? Man, I guy can’t build up to NOTHIN’ anymore! Hey, at least I’m not rambling like an aint it cool news review where I talk about the first time I saw Speed Racer and shat my diaper and go on to explain my life story and how good ol’ Speed ties into every moment of my life and how I prayed to a God I don’t believe in that he’d deliver me the adaptation of my 80’s role model that was so bad ass I could cream my britches while biting my lip in a dark theater sitting next to a girl I’ll never fuck.
Okay, so I’m in a mood.
Check it out…I loved Speed Racer. No shit. Yeah, yeah, I know the reviews aren’t so great and that you still are all upset over the jumbo crayola pack of colors in the trailer and the cheesy dialogue. Well, let’s not forget that it’s based on a freakin’ Japanese animated cartoon. C’mon. It’s not M. Night Shyamalan’s Speed Racer, folks, it’s the Wachowski brothers and the last time we saw them onscreen, Keanu Reeves was bouncing off walls and Kung Fu’ing a thousand dudes at once.
Speed Racer is a very comic book-esque story with a heart in the right place, something very rare in these types of films. I really was surprised by the amount of family-themed heart that was in the film and never misguided or overly gay. It was about as pretentious as a Disney flick only with a sharper edge.
There’s mild swearing, some bird flippin’, and even a great line from Speed himself in the final race, “Get that weak shit off my race track!”
All the actors pull off their roles well, never once looking like they’re just cashing in a summer movie paycheck. Everyone seems to be proud to be a part of the Wachowski rollercoaster and having a blast doing it. Plus, there’s a real chimp, and everyone knows that a monkey in a movie is box office gold, even if the movie doesn’t make two nickels to rub together.
Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild) plays Speed Racer with all the charm you’d expect and his counterpart, the shady Racer X is played with stoic anti-heroism by Matthew Fox (Lost and that crappy Party of Five bullshit), who I am happy to see getting more screen time. Fuck Seth Rogen in “Knocked Up” because Matthew Fox is double D tits as Racer X and I hope to see him in some starring roles in the near future.
And of course we have Christina Ricci. She seems to be a love or hate kind of actress, but for my money, any chick that would spend an entire movie in her panties and cut-off shirt while playing a nymphomaniac is money to me. She’s beyond perfect for Speed Racer as girlfriend Trixie, due largely to the fact that she looks EXACTLY like a living, breathing anime female, complete with huge eyes, big cranium, and a cookie cut bod to match.
John Goodman and Susan Sarandon (hippie) are fine as Speed’s parents, but the true joy of the film is Speed’s younger brother, Spritle, and his pet chimp, Chim Chim. Fucking hilarious. Their obnoxious and rebellious antics provide some great comic relief that most people didn’t get, because I seemed to be the only one in the theater laughing. Plus, anytime you have a monkey driving something is probably more hilarious than when little kids kick their dads in the nuts on America’s Funniest Home Videos.
The villain of the film is the only true downside. The usual evil British corporate asshole thing gets stretched way too far out and is cause for the only snooze inducing moment of the film. We get it dude, you’re fuckin’ evil. NEXT! To me, that’s pretty minor.
The racing sequences took me a hot second to get into. They are super over-the-top and hard to follow at first, but then the Wachowski’s give us a little gift. They unzip their movie pants and whip out their Matrix weenie and slow shit down all pretty like so’s we can enjoy the badassedness to its full on capacity. These are things I like and it’s nice to see it from the guys that really perfected the art of the modern day slow-mo ballet (following on Mr. John Woo’s coattails mind you) rather than from some second hand wannabe.
Utilizing every facet of the digital world, the Wachowski’s have crafted a movie universe, brought to life from a 2D cartoon series and made it real…or, as real as can be in the context that it’s being presented. And it’s a wild ride. When I catch myself with a stupid grin on my face and quickly wipe it away in the event that someone is looking at me in a theater I know that I am enjoying the hell out of a movie. And I enjoyed the hell out of Speed.
The end car race is brilliantly edited, building much like the final boxing bout in Rocky Balboa that builds and builds and then crests, like a rising symphony. I love that shit and eat it right up like a bowl of Captain Crunch Crunchberries. It gets my blood pumping and makes me want to make movies. It’s the shit I live for.
Now, here’s the thing…I can completely see why someone would hate this movie. I get it. It’s too much or not enough for you. For me, it was a perfect fit for what it was meant to be. I didn’t bring my fanboy checklist to make sure they hit on every detail from my little cartoon show that filled a half hour of my life after school while I was eating Pringles and stealing dad’s Playboys.
Much like Tony Scott’s Domino, which was hated by just about everyone but me, this is one that might be ahead of its time.
My advice is to loosen up, go in blind if possible, and enjoy the ride. If you can’t at least laugh at the monkey, then you probably shouldn’t be watching movies. Or breathing air.