With the growing anticipation of this summer’s new release from Warner Brothers, “Speed Racer,” it seems as if this legend’s race to the checkered flag has come to an end.
When many hear the title “Speed Racer,” they begin to think back on childhood memories of watching the popular cartoon that first hit television screens in the late 1960s, brought to America by Japanese creator and writer Tatsuo Yoshida and Tatsunoko Productions.
As the release of the new “Speed Racer” hits the theater, I think it is clear to any classic “Speed Racer” fan that it’s just not the same without Yoshida around.
Written and directed by the Wachowski Brothers, who brought us the “Matrix” trilogy (1999-2005), and “V for Vendetta” (2005), they accepted the job of bringing this classic cartoon back to life.
As the movie begins with young Speed Racer (Nicholas Elia, “White Noise,” 2005) sitting in class dreaming about one day being a great racer like his older brother Rex (Scott Porter, “Prom Night,” 2008) the newcomer to this classic cartoon gets a weak background compared to the original plot where more detail of Speed’s childhood is given.
When Speed’s brother, Rex, kills his identity in a fatal car accident, Speed is driven even harder. The family racing company is closed and Speed’s father, Pops, played by John Goodman (“Evan Almighty,” 2007) doesn’t step foot in the garage for a year.
As Speed grows up and turns into the racer that he knew he could always be, played by Emile Hirsch (“Into the Wild,” 2007, “Alpha Dog,” 2006), he begins to dominate the racing world with his style, speed and intensity – always chasing the ghost of his deceased brother Rex.
While the popularity of Speed begins to grow, he is approached by many mainstream sponsors, which try and tear him away from the family team and business.
When he gets the unbelievable offer from Mr. Royalton, played by Roger Allam, he has second thoughts about his past and his future.
As flashbacks of memories with his brother, past races, and classic times with his father go through his head his future is more and more on his mind.
When he declines the offer that was given to him, Royalton lets him in on a little secret revealing the truth of the racing business, leaving Speed in a pickle. He is left to decide whether to fall into the pit of popularity and corruption, or to race from the heart and play by the rules.
When Speed is immediately convinced by his mother (Susan Sarandon, “Enchanted,” 2007) and girlfriend Trixi, played by Christina Ricci (“Monster,” 2003) to get back on the track for the right reasons, and for the love of the race, he teams up with legendary Racer X played by Matthew Fox (“Lost,” 2004-2008) to break the tradition of corruption in the race world.
As Speed and Racer X go on their mission we see what the future of movies and car racing could be in for.
When the races hit the screens, the special effects and digital filming has a great effect on the viewer. With some of the scenes looking as if you were watching a 3D movie, the colors begin to hop off the screen and right into your lap.
Although the Wachowski Brothers do a good job of building on their Matrix style of filming and cinematography, they get the viewer lost along the way with the confusing plot that jumps around too much to follow, especially for a movie that is made for young kids.
As the movie comes to an end, the viewer is thrown into a predictable conclusion. It feels as if more time was spent on the cinematography and special effects and not enough on the plot and story writing, which is what made the original “Speed Racer” great in the first place.
When it comes to the remake of a classic cartoon that influenced many of our childhoods, it is very clear that the Wachowski Brothers failed to improve and recreate the cartoon.
Speed Racer falls into a tragic spinout somewhere around the third turn of the final lap.
As the checkered flag waves and the movie comes to an end, the real fans of the original and legendary “Speed Racer” will be leaving the theater greatly disappointed with this weak remake.
Warner Brothers: Rated PG for sequences of action, some violence and language.
My rating: 2 out of 4 stars