Speed Racer – Family Movie Review
Movie Mama Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Starring: Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci, Matthew Fox, Susan Sarandon, John Goodman
Directed By: Larry Wachowski, Andy Wachowski
Running Time: 2 hr. 15 min.
MPAA Rating: PG for sequences of action, some violence, language and brief smoking.
Genre: Comic Book, Sci-Fi, Sports
Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) breathes, eats, and lives car racing. With his trusty Mach 5, Speed is at the top of his game, winning race after race, and he starts getting noticed by huge corporate sponsors. When he turns down an offer from big-time conglomerate, Royalton Industries, Speed learns that professional racing is controlled by the sponsors–even the results of the Grand Prix are fixed. Not only that, but Royalton takes his revenge out on the Racer family business, hoping to destroy them. In order to change how the game is played, and save his family's legacy, Speed must risk his life competing in the fiercest race in the world–the same one that claimed his older brother's life many years before.
I must admit, I wasn't too excited about seeing this film. After what the Wachowski brothers did to the Matrix sequels, I wasn't sure if they could win my admiration back. But within only ten minutes, I was turning to my husband saying, You know, I really like this so far. He even agreed with me. And as the film progressed, we found ourselves laughing, tearing up, even repeating several times that the film was better than we expected.
The first thing to grab our attention was of course, the brilliant color palette. The Wachowski brothers filmed almost all of the actors against a green screen back-drop, which they then filled in with an amazing, jaw-dropping world of color, outstanding animation, and comic book cinematography. The techniques they use are guaranteed to be nothing you've ever seen on screen before. The bar for special effects has now been raised.
Speed Racer is a thrill ride for anyone who loves comic books, video games, racing or NASCAR, kung fu, gangster films, or anime. It's almost like Mario Kart on the big screen. The scenes with Spritle (Paulie Litt) and Chim Chim (his trusty chimpanzee) really put you in the mind of a child and are truly funny. The car races are so spectacular that they had quite a few kids (and adults) in the audience yelling out, Cool
In case you've heard reviews that the film's bright colors and psychedelic effects will make you nauseous or give you a headache, I'm here to tell you that I received neither. (I actually got a raging headache from last year's The Bourne Ultimatum with its constant jerky cinematography–if you can stomach that, then Speed Racer shouldn't be a problem.) The Wachowski brothers split up the racing scenes enough so that you don't have a constant blur, and there's enough plot going on outside the actual races that help keep a nice pace.
The most touching part of the film is the heart-to-heart talks that Pops Racer (John Goodman) and Mom Racer (Susan Sarandon) share with their son, Speed. The family unit is very strong and important in this film, and both Pops and Mom make sure to encourage Speed and tell him they love him.
Speed and his girlfriend, Trixie (Christina Ricci), have an admirable relationship, both making good role models for our kids. There is no kissing until the very end, Speed is a perfect gentleman around her, and their relationship involves more than just making out like other teen movie couples. Trixie supports and encourages Speed no matter what without being manipulating. They spend a lot of time together with his family and in essence, she's been a part of the family since grade school. There is a underlying theme that Pops Racer married his best friend, and it looks like Speed is following in the same footsteps–a great lesson for young men in the audience.
Another theme in the film is standing up for what is right, even if you think you don't have a chance. Speed Racer going against the major moguls of the racing industry is a sort of David and Goliath story. The lesson is: money and greed get you nowhere, but love and family does.
Finally, some reviewers have said that the film isn't true to life–personally, I'm glad it isn't I think that if it weren't set in such an obvious comic book or video game world, kids would be more inclined to imitate the outlandish things they see on screen.
Here are a few things that parents should be aware of before they venture to the theaters:
There are a few comic book/gangster-like violent parts like piranhas biting off someone's finger, a few scary car chases, and lots of shoot-em-up action.
As far as the PG rating, I'm a little disappointed as to how much crude content was allowed to slip by. There are a handful of curse words, even young Spritle gives someone the middle finger, and one racing opponent calls everyone turds. Chim Chim throws his own excrement at one point, and an enemy gets kicked in the groin (both of which received roaring laughter from the kids in the audience).
There is also a fair bit of sensuality in the film. I was hoping a PG racing film wouldn't have to include the hot babes and cars stigma, but unfortunately, the Wachowski brothers thought they had to throw it in. There are several sensuous camera angles, some women wear indecent shorts and very low cut tops, and at one point, a woman wearing what seems to be a swimsuit steps into view, resulting in a half-bare butt cheek filling up a major portion of the screen. The film would have been even better without these unnecessary distractions.
Part of the plot involves the stock market, which might be over kids' heads, but they should understand the general idea portrayed. And the film jumps back and forth between the past, present, and future–this also might be hard for some younger viewers to follow.
In my personal opinion, this film should really be rated PG-13. It had much more objectionable material than the recent Nim's Island, which was rated the same. Having said that, here's a word of advice: go to the theater with an open mind. You just might be surprised at how much you enjoy this Spring flick.