The Wachowski siblings have crafted a fantastic, fun, and exciting piece of cinema that can be enjoyed by anyone willing to let the kid inside of them come out to play. The film centers around the Racer family as they try and challenge the scheme of conglomerate racing mogul Royalton, who is only worried about dollars and cents and not the joy and excitement of racing that the Racer family holds true.
Speed Racer (Emile Hirsh) is the driver for the family and lives with the ambitions to live up to his older brother Rex, idolizing him as a child and forced to watch his downfall on the professional circuit, those memories drive Speed to follow the path he does, and strive to do good in the only way he knows how; race. Speed’s Family supports him in a number ways throughout the film and the feeling of family unity is strong and is a great message to the audience this film is targeted towards.
Now, don’t let the family moniker scare you away as this is quality entertainment, it’s just suitable for all ages, and that isn’t a bad thing by any means. The races are entertaining as hell and full of speed, zaniness, and excitement, along with some brutal crashes to all contestants (every driver’s life is saved in a crash by a bubbly foam thing that wraps them up as they bounce away unscathed). There are three major races throughout with the best being the finale by a hair over the opening “ghost” race.
The plot as a whole works pretty well for the most part, it gets a little slow when Royalton is attempting to recruit Speed to join his team and leaves us wondering a bit to Racer X’s emotions, but outside that, the movie whips along at a very quick pace, injecting some genuine laughs (usually from Chim Chim and Spritle), Kung Fu fighting, while pulling you into the intended suspense of the piece.
The acting is solid across the board and really compliments the visual treat so that you get to watch more then a CGI light show of sorts. John Goodman is great as Pops and you can real feel his struggle to deal with his past lessons from Rex and trying to apply him to the paralleling situations with Speed. Susan Sarandon does well with what she has as the supportive Mom Racer as does Christina Ricci as the equally supportive Trixie. Matthew Fox plays an excellent bad-ass and mystery man in Racer-X and he has a joy beating people up on and off the track. Paulie Litt is hilarious as Spritle working well with his primate co-star as they share just about every scene together. Speed is played well by both actors who play him. Hirsch sells the intensity of the races and also sells us on his motivations and drive to be something great even if it only is through racing. Nicholas Elia is fantastic as young Speed and really works well worshiping and working off Scott Porter’s Rex Racer.
The Wachowski’s visual look to this film is unreal. A living and breathing cartoon full of color and life, cool wipes and transitions, it all just oozes style. I can’t think of another movie that is so constantly full of life, fun, and flavor in its visual style in recent memory, maybe ever. It is an absolute trip and demands to be seen on the big screen or better yet IMAX; I can’t wait to get this on Blu-Ray as well. You won’t find a more stimulating visual marvel of a film like this for some time to come I imagine.
In the end, Speed Racer is a solid family film that falters rarely and outside a minor pacing issue in the beginning is just a blast to watch throughout. The races are a lot of fun, though not as good as the SW: Episode I pod race, and the story is solid, but nothing awe inspiring, but that doesn’t keep this film from being a great family action film that is easy to sit back and just enjoy. Speed Racer is a lot of fun and worth checking out for the visual and the opportunity to just sit back and be a kid again in the theater.