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Speed Racer (1/10)

by Tony Medley

Running Time 135 minutes

The color is beautiful. Watching it in an IMAX theater, it really jumps out at you. It’s so good that it is reminiscent of the old three-strip Technicolor films from around 1934-1954 when the process terminated, due basically to the expense, although there were other reasons. Whatever the reasons, movie color has never approached what Technicolor produced for those 20 years. “Foxfire” (1955) was the last film released using three-strip Technicolor. Watch “The Adventures of Robin Hood” (1938) and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (1953), to name only two of many, and you will see color that boggles your mind. “Speed Racer” is akin to the same wonderful vivid colors.

That’s the only good thing I can say about this cartoon movie with real live people. It’s built on the theme of the “Spiderman” movies in that there’s a good looking hero, Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch), a pretty girl friend, Trixie (Christina Ricci), a bad guy, Royalton, (Roger Allam), and lots and lots of special effects. In fact, the film consists of about 15 minutes of dialogue and 120 minutes of mind-numbing special effects.

Hirsch is a good actor. I don’t know why he would waste his talent in a thing like this where he just fronts for special effects. All the actors were filmed in front of a green screen with the backgrounds inserted via CGI. The races are all incomprehensible unless you have the intellect of a pre-pubescent devotee of video games. They are just a miasma of colors and crashes and noise with two announcers telling us what is apparently happening. The announcers are necessary because it’s not possible to determine what the cartoon cars are really doing in the race just by watching. The cars are all graphics. They fly and spin and crash in ways that are impossible. This is just Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd dressed up as real people.

Also along for the ride here are Speed Racer’s parents, Pops Racer (John Goodman) and Mom Racer (Susan Sarandon). Rounding out the basic cast is Racer X (Matthew Fox, a hunk from ABC’s hit series, “Lost”). Except for Fox, they don’t add much to the movie. In fact, the best performances in the film belong to Fox and Allam.

All these comic book/cartoon films have the bare minimum stories and lines like, “What matters isn’t whether racing changes. What matters is if racing changes us.” Oh, gee, there I go and give you about 25% of the dialogue.

May 7, 2008