Obviously, there is another pivotal race that provides the finale, and it’s equally addictive. But much of the action in between is too childlike, even for a movie meant for family viewing. There seems to be a lack of consistency between the overall movement of Speed Racer as a fairly serious experience and its campier elements.
So fitting some of the lighter, more memorable facets of the original cartoon into what aspires to be a heavier film – or at least what works better and more often as a heavier film – is the constant struggle for the Wachowskis. In fact, some of the film’s best moments don’t involve the hyperkinetic computer animation that makes Speed Racer a $100 million investment; John Goodman has a handful of terrific father-son scenes with Hirsch that would grab hold of you in any movie. Likewise, Hirsch goes a couple rounds with Fox and Susan Sarandon, playing his doting mother, that have as much impact as any of the individual visual effects.
Having said that, Speed Racer is ultimately an effects movie, and as that goes, it’s a damn good one. Don’t even bother trying to calculate what’s real and what’s computer generated in each scene. The animation is so intricately and seamlessly integrated that unless it absolutely looks otherworldly, like the racing scenes, you wouldn’t know the difference anyway.
There is still a bit too much racing at you in Speed Racer, however. At a little bit over two hours, the overwhelming density of the colors, the velocity of the racing scenes, and those oddly out of place moments of comic relief combine to make the film like a rich dessert you just can’t finish.
Starring Emile Hirsch, John Goodman and Matthew Fox
Directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski