Speed Racer was always one of my five wholly grails of films. Weirdly, I’ve never been that into the cartoon, but always thought it would make an amazing film. I was prepared to totally hate Speed Racer, everything that I saw of the film before I saw it sucked Chim Chim’s monkey balls which were then thrown in my face. The trailers were bad, the clips were amazingly stiff. Casting awful. CGI was crap. Clearly the directors/writers Wachowski‘s have lost their damn minds. Warner Brothers raped my childhood and I LOVED every psychedelic, trippy, vertigo induced minute of it. This movie capped off a fantastic film week that included Iron-Man and Son of Rambow. I liked Iron-Man a lot, but this is the movie that just punched me in the happy bone. I had a smile on my face for days after the screening. Why did this work so well? In a word, despite the weird LSD induced colors this film was about something. It had a heart and soul to it. And I wasn’t expecting that in a summer blockbuster. This movie is about family and love – of racing and each other. Each race while fast, frenetic and colorful told the larger story. It wasn’t about just getting to the finish line as fast as you can.
From the opening graphics to the end closing credits the Wachowski’s nailed everything that was good about Speed Racer and elevated it to the 10th level. In a film like this the makers forget what was it about the original source material that drew people to begin with. For example in Mission Impossible two and three, they complete remade and destroyed the original, classic well known theme song. It’s a minor thing, but that theme is part of MI’s character. Just like in Speed Racer the classic theme is vital to maintaining the integrity of the show/film. Before I walked into the theater I saw an ad for that god awful Speed Racer cartoon on Nicktoons where they completely bastardized the original song. I thought for sure it would be used in the movie as well. The Brother’s W, not only kept the original theme but gave it this majestic orchestral score that put a huge grin on my face. They kept all of the musical beats from the series. Even the one modern version of the song that roles at the end credits is incredibly cool.
And that’s why this film was so great, they did a lot of nods to the original classic moments – The Monster Car, yep it’s there (doesn’t look so monster), Chim Chim and Spritle pretending to be a goon? Yep, it’s there. Speaking of Spritle, I’ve always hated those two in the cartoon, but here. They pretty much steal the film. Young Paulie Litt is at time hysterically funny. The way Racer X (Matthew Fox) is handled is perfect. I was actually fooled by the twist that really wasn’t a twist towards the end. Emile Hirsch brings a certain charm to Speed. Some of his line delivery is stilted and emotionless. But the writing is so strong and enough is going on that you don’t notice it as much. Speed Racer may not be Oscar worthy “best film,” but it’s the most fun I’ve had at a movie in years. Every frame is infused with love and care. It’s an extremely rare A+.
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Originally posted 5.8.2008