Speed Racer

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I can't recommend this movie to you. I can easily see many people giving up, popping it out of the DVD player, and sailing it across the room like a frisbee. But I surprised myself by liking it quite a bit. It was was written and directed by the Wachowski brothers of Matrix fame.

The movie centers on the Racer family. Which consists of father and mother (named "Pops" and "Mom", respectively), allegedly deceased older son Rex, Speed, and tubby little comic-relief Spritle.

Also, Spritle has a chimp.

As you might expect with a name like "Racer", the family business is car racing. Speed is a gifted driver, Pops is a gifted designer. But they are set upon by corrupt corporate types who fix races in order to manipulate stock prices and fuel takeovers.

So far, except maybe for the chimp, I could have been describing a movie set in our own world. But Speed Racer is set in an alternate reality, colored as garishly as a video game. Racing has gone high-tech. The cars have "jump jacks" which allow a limited amount of flying and flipping. And races are not simply races, but also pitched battles between cars, using gimmicky weaponry and defenses. The Racer family goes up against a dizzying array of absurdly-costumed mugging-for-the-camera villains.

This all sounds pretty ludicrous, but only because it is. There are a lot of plot points that don't make a lot of sense; you have to just nod your head and say: they could probably have explained that if they wanted to, but they don't.

The movie was a box-office bomb, going up against Iron Man this summer and failing. I can see why. But I have a lot of respect for filmmakers who have a vision and decide to have some fun making exactly the movie they want to make, and that appears to have been the case here. There's an incredible amount of detail, stuff off in the corners of the screen for a second or less that must have cost a bundle to design and implement.

And Shaft himself, Richard Roundtree, has a small role. It was nice to see him.

Last Modified 2024-02-01 5:17 AM EDT