For some reason I tend to be the guy that likes the movies that everyone else can’t stand. I’m not sure if this is the case here, but let’s just say that despite the crap reviews—I loved the flick: Speed Racer. In the 1960’s Japanese animation pioneer, Tatsuo Yoshida created the exciting animated series Mach GoGoGo. It was insanely successful and was re-dubbed for US television in 1967 under the name that we’ve grown to know and love: Speed Racer.
This summer, directing their first feature since the ridiculous Matrix sequels, Larry and Andy Wachowski brought Speed Racer to the big screen and I freaking loved it. In fact, I saw it twice in three days. And here's the review I promised.
Speed Racer (the movie) is an insanely lush experiment in cinematic storytelling. When I finally forced myself to watch the final installment of the Matrix Trilogy on DVD, it was brutally apparent that the Wachowskis we’re fans of South Korean filmmaker Myung-se Lee. Especially since they cold-lifted the final fight scene in The Matrix Revolutions from Lee’s 1999 Sundance-selected, genre-crunching, crime dramady: Nowhere to Hide.
In Speed Racer, the Brothers Wachowski return once again to their homage to Myung-se Lee’s work. Throughout Nowhere to Hide, the director constantly relies on stylized, almost anime-like techniques to cover up edits and intensify the action. These exact methods were utilized in Speed Racer to accomplish a similar result. However, rather than coming off as copycats, the Wachowskis use this type of storytelling in a fun, compelling, energetic way that fits with the original text very well.
For me, the movie itself was utterly unique. I loved the race scenes, the production design (especially the Mach 5 and Mach 6) and even though the acting was campy—I bought into it. John Goodman as Pops: awesome. Emile Hirsch as Speed: awesomer. Matthew Fox as Racer X: awesomest. Granted there are times when the special effects feel stitched in and down right low-budge. But it still worked for me. Seriously, it’s not like the original Speed Racer series was by any means a high quality cartoon to begin with. The coolest detail about the movie, is that the filmmakers actually took the time to work in Speed’s inexplicable gasps and grunts throughout the racing sequences.
For some reason, I have the innate ability to walk into a theater a watch a flick with the eyes of a 13 year-old. Personally, I feel like that’s a gift. (I suppose that’s why I can stomach something like Episode I.) So the big question is, can someone who’s not an original series fan, or a car freak, or a super-gifted man-child enjoy this 2 hour and 15 minute cinematographic explosion? I believe the answer is yes. Just suspend your disbelief, drive really fast on the way to the theater and decide now to be okay with candy-craving chimpanzees.