Movie Review: "Speed Racer"
Tonight's prom night here in Meridian, Idaho, so with the two boys off at the prom (tux rental prices have sky-rocketed in the last 27 years!) the girls and I went to see "Speed Racer". I'll admit up front that I was really wanting to like this film -- it was even one of my New Year's predictions that it would be good.
So was my prediction a good one? Rotten Tomatoes doesn't think so; it's only getting a 35% favorable rating. I don't care what the critics think, though -- I look at these films from a guy's perspective. And as a guy... I'm still not quite sure what I think about it.
The Wachowski Brothers have created a visual delight; I loved their use of bright primary colors. The film is an explosion of visual stimulation, but it's (usually) not overdone. It's one of those $100 million dollar movies where you can see every dollar up there on the screen. The actors were well-cast; Christina Ricci in particular stood out. (It helps that she naturally has the most anime-like eyes of any actress around, seeing that the original cartoon was a manga.) The main problem is with the plot. The screenwriters apparently decided that when you're working with an established franchise you're limited in what you can do with the characters. In this case, though, since the target audience probably has no experience with the original cartoon, I think they could have done a little bit more to make it more interesting. In most movies, I like when they put in backstory to help us understand the motivations of the characters; in this one, I think they did a little too much.
As stunning as the visuals were, the racing scenes were kind of a disappointment. Many times I just couldn't follow what was happening on the screen because they choose to emphasize the speed of the cars -- particularly in the climatic run up the home stretch of the final race. On the other hand, I really enjoyed the way they paid homage to racing video games (particularly the "Mario Kart" series); the use of the "ghost" was a very nice touch.
The main problem with the movie, I think, is that they never really decided which audience they wanted to entertain the most -- the kids, or their parents who remembered the original cartoon. As a result, they didn't really hit the target for either market. Overall, I give "Speed Racer" 3 Trippy Scenes That Will Really Freak You Out If You Go To The Movie After Drinking Too Much Cough Syrup out of five.