Friday, May 9, 2008

Speed Racer: Turbo-Charged Eye Candy!

I'm pretty sure I just had a coronary watching this movie, so let me try to calm down as I write this review.

Speed Racer looked like someone shot a bag full of skittle across the surface of a pinball machine with an airgun. If you have ever wondered if live-action anime' could possibly work, wonder no more. The Wachowski Borthers (remember The Matrix?) have proven that it can.

But it's a delicate dance, so before this launches a whole new live-action anime's genre, let me just tell the rest of the directors in Hollywood, "You won't be able to do it like they did, so please don't try."

I had wondered, before going in, why A-List actors like John Goodman, Susan Sarandon, and Christina Ricci were signed on to appear in a movie that seemed to be so visually-driven from the previews. I mean, you'd think they could have signed on anyone with a heartbeat out of any old Studio Cattle-Call and saved themselves a buck or two. But live-acting an anime' series, without making it look completely ridiculous, is probably one of the more difficult things an actor can pull off in their career, and they found the best cast they could have to do it.

Slap on top of that the best visual effects so far of the year, and you have a checkered flag for the weekend Box Office receipt race. (Hey, it's a racing movie review; as a reviewer I'm obligated to use predictable cliche's, ok?) Borrowing from Tron and improving upon it a hundredfold, it is without hesitation that I call this a "visual delight." The Wachowskis have discovered a whole new frontier in cinematography, one that I hope they contnue to explore.

A few other small things made this movie particularly enjoyable for me, on a personal level: the bad guys were easily identifiable by their bad teeth; they had a chimpanzee in people-clothes, and that's always been one of my favorite things to watch; and someone near the beginning of the movie said "Holy Canoli," and I always say "Holy Canoli."

I give Speed Racer a grade of 8 out of a possible 10; the only real flaw that keeps it from being perfect is in the nature of the film itself. As a racing film, and not just that but a speed racing film, there are two hours of speeding cars throughout the movie, from beginning to end. That unavoidably lessens the climatic effect of the final race, since you feel like you have been watching the climatic race for two hours by the time Speed Racer makes his final pass over the finish line. But if that's all I can find to complain about, then you know it's going to be one hell of a ride.


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