Saturday, January 03, 2009

MOVIE: Speed Racer

I wish I had seen Speed Racer on the big screen. It would have been fantastic.

Unfortunately this movie was a complete flop at the theaters. It cost about $120M to make it. (They spent $80M on marketing!) It brought in $43M in the American box offices. And I avoid it because of the reviews it received. I don't know why it was unfairly tarnished, though. It was a fantastic homage to the 1970s Japanese anime series of the same name. In all aspects, it was absolutely perfect.

I loved the Racer family. Especially Spritle. Speed was great. Pops was great. Trixie was awesomely un-accentuated. And Rex was great.

I loved the racing. Awesome awesome awesome interpretations of the strange twisted tracks and even the long cross-country races from the cartoon. Drifting was incredible. Car battles were amazing. And I couldn't get enough of the noise that the Mach 5 would make as it sprung off the ground. My hat is off to the Wachowski Brothers for their astonishing spin on such a difficult subject.

I loved the villains. The main protagonist (Mr Royalton) gave a fine performance as he portrayed the seedy underbelly (ie: sponsors) of racing. While the other minor villains (Snake Oiler, Cannonball, Dour Face, etc) were superbly cartoonish, inept, and stood no chance of succeeding, even against a boy and his monkey. Very true to the original and very entertaining.

The writing was absolutely in sync with the spirit of the original series. The direction was exceptionally well done given the style and scope of the movie. The acting was surprisingly good. I truly enjoyed the dialogs between Speed & Pops, Speed & Mr Royalton, and Speed & Racer X. The pacing couldn't have been better. The 2.5hr film seemed like a couple of 30 minute episodes. And OH-MY-GOD the effects were earth shattering.Completely unique style, untouched by anything that I've ever seen. Best effects of the year, no doubt about it.

I applaud the movie and rank it far above such recent flops as the Fantastic Four, which grossed $130M and stunk worse than a used diaper wrapped in Indian food.It is not easy bringing a cartoon like Speed Racer to life. The Wachowski brothers did it. And did it right. I honestly believe the poor reception of Speed Racer was due to people over-thinking the movie, expecting it to be a watered-down, Americanized, enlightened and realistically modernized version of the cartoon I grew up watching nearly 40 years ago.

Sadly, I don't think any adults who were not fans of the original series will enjoy it. They won't get it. They'll have no basis of comparison. I think kids will enjoy it, though. They'll get it. And they'll enjoy it for what it is: a whimsical, light-hearted adventure about a boy, his family, and his car.
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