And so arrives 2008’s generally least anticipated summer blockbuster. From the get go of the early trailers, this looked like a very expensive movie for a very niche market, namely those who enjoyed Speed Racer and are looking for a adrenilin kick of nostalgia. And while they will get theres, this movie should also play to roughly half on any given audience in a very good way. But there other half, not so much…..
Getting the basics out of the way, Emile Hirsch is Speed, of the Racer family, who loves driving his souped up logistically impossible car, winning all the small times racers, with no real competition except for that of the ghost of the brother, who was killed in a fixed race several years earlier. His father (John Goodman) and mother (Susan Surandon) never entirely got over it, but they still watch Speed race, along with his younger brother Spritle and his pet monkey ChimChim(Paulie Litt and said monkey almost run away with the film, such is their comic timing). When a big time sponson spots Speed’s potential, he offers him an ultimatum, join his team or possibly be killed on the track. And thats pretty much your lot.
But then this film was never going to be about the story, or for that matter, the acting. Hirsch, Goodman and Sarandon are all fine in the roles, as is Matthew Fox as Racer X (mysterious past alert!) and Christian Ricci as Speed’s girlfriend Trixie once again oozes sex appeal, even while trying to just be cute and safe. This film was going to be about the visuals. And my God, are they visual.
The best, or perhaps worst, comparison is to Ang Lee’s The Hulk, with its very literal take of ”comic book adaptation”, so to is this quite probably the closest Hollywood will ever get to taking a 60’s Manga cartoon and making it ”real”, with real being a very subjective word in this case, since practically all of the movie has at least some CGI going on somewhere on screen. The races themselves range from extremely exciting (the cross-continent rally, for example, is an expert example of a modern action sequence) to boring, repetitive or irritating (two seperate races in the movie cut back and forth from the race to events in the past, totally chopping up the tension of the scene itself).
For most of the movie, the best advice would be to regress into a mental age of about 7 and look at all the pretty colours, laugh at the monkey throwing poo at the bad guy and try not to think too hard. While we’re not saying there’s nothing for adults to enjoy (Richard Rowntree’s cameo, Roger Allam taking the villian he played in V For Vendetta and turning it up to 11), most of this movie is aimed squarely at the young or the young at heart. But if the idea alone of spending 140 minutes in a world vaguely resembling a futuristically neon gay pride flag is already giving you a headache, then give this a miss. Don’t even look at the poster. This is not for you. You know who you are.
Six Out Of Ten.