A lot of movies get referred to as "live action cartoons", and that is usually not meant as a compliment. But then there's Speed Racer, where, it must be admitted, that is the entire point.
This, not to belabor that point, is a live-action version of the hugely successful and durable proto-anime series of the 60s. Whereas similar adaptations would use a real-world approach to the story, the writer/director Wachowsky brothers (yes, The Matrix) have instead constructed a massive green-screen universe, a candyshell-colored parallel dimension where race cars are designed to drive upside-down and make leaps that designers of model car tracks would deem unrealistic. This is a centrifuge of a movie - the camera is rarely still, the wipes are creatively kinetic, and between this rush of information and the brightly colored environments - audiences left the theater dazed. There was an IMAX version, and attendee's heads must have exploded.
The casting is uncommonly canny; Emile Hirsch is a fine Speed, John Goodman a shoo-in for Pops Racer, but who expected Matthew Fox to be the perfect Racer X? Susan Sarandon and Christina Ricci, as Moms Racer and Trixie, respectively, are criminally underused. But then, let's not fool ourselves. The series was never about the characters, it was about the absurdly dangerous races and colorful villains, and Speed Racer delivers on these magnificently.
Oh yeah, there's a story in there too, about corruption in the racing world and Speed's desire to be independent. Big deal. Vroom! Vroom!
Blah blah blah computer generated film blah blah flawless transfer blah blah great sound. The cluttered, busy box art will give you a clue as to what you're about to get into. But only a clue.
And, oh good - in their latest insulting anti-piracy ad, Warner is sullying the memory of Casablanca. Thank God they don't have the rights to Citizen Kane.
Past that infuriating treatment of an iconic film, we will get previews for Fred Claus, Another Cinderella Story, the Speed Racer video game, an anti-smoking ad (?) and a plug for the 20th anniversary DVD of Beetlejuice. Past these, the disc is a bit bare-boned. In Spritle in the Big Leagues, actor Paulie Litt takes us on a jokey tour through the various departments involved in the making of the movie, and Supercharged! is a techno-babble fan's dream, as computer-generated cars are dissected while a growly announcer breathlessly fills us in on each model's technical advancements. An especially fun aside comes during the description of the single car that could actually exist in our real world, which is described as only possible in a backwater "parallel dimension".
Dr. Freex, 9/30/2008