This spectacular vomit ride of cotton-candied colors actually plays better on the small screen. Which is a good thing, because that’s where most people will see it.
The film is a momentous achievement in stunning visuals the like of which have never been seen before. It's a grand adventure with a lot of potential. And for a cartoon movie, the performances are pretty great.
Sadly, the film is way too long at two hours and fifteen minutes. The subplot about commercialism and selling your soul weighs too heavily on this supposed good time. Someone needed to take a pair of scissors to it. Kids, the audience that this film is so pointedly aimed at, don't give a rat's butt hole about the evils of consumerism. And it's a little hypocritical, ain't it?
It's weird. No one wanted to see Speed Racer when it landed in theaters last May. Sure, it was directed by The Wachowski Brothers, the masterminds behind The Matrix franchise. But even that seemed off center. Why were a bunch of adult oriented filmmakers trying to cater to the kiddy market? It didn't make sense, and nether did the film. It was one of the bigger bummers of summer, but the good news is that it plays a lot better on the small screen. Sure, it's a unique visual feast that should have been seen on the big screen. But here, you can actually stop it every twenty minutes and watch it as a serialized mini-series. Which actually works in favor of long and boring story being told. While the Wachowski brothers have perfected a unique digital experience the likes of which has never been seen before, they forgot one little minor detail: They forgot to make the flick interesting. Despite the candy coated neon eye-rapage that is on display, and the inventive new camera work, and the endless car chases, it easy to dozed off into an unintended nap somewhere in the middle of the second act. This is whiz-bang visual wizardry served on a plain white napkin. There's far too much talking, and it starts to invade the action scenes. Seriously. When a car race gets started, it is quickly interrupted by flashbacks and regrets, and huge chunks of clunky, dialectic exposition. The actors are as fine as they can be, acting against a green screen ninety percent of the time. I truly wanted to be transported into this unique and beautiful new world, but my mind kept racing faster than the faux-plastic cartoon cars on screen. "Why am I not enjoying this? What is wrong with me? Oh, that's it...I'm bored and I don't care one bit about any of the characters on screen." The film is certainly worth seeing for one car race that comes in at the midway point. It is a cross-country trek that sees Speed teaming up with Racer X and rival Taejo Togokhan to beat Snake Oiler for a chance at competing in the climatic final race. The scene culminates in a fantastically choreographed kung fu battle that had me smiling from ear to ear. But the scene is a long time coming, and a long time going on both sides of the fence. There isn't a lot of cheese and meat around this blase sandwich. A lot of screen time is given to Spritle and Chim-Chim. And with good reason: Paulie Litt practically runs off with the entire show. Sadly, the monkey playing Chim-Chim doesn't get a proper cast credit. Which is strange, since he shows more on-screen range than Christina Ricci and Emile Hirsch combined. (But that's to be expected. They are playing live action anime characters.) The disc is worth owning only because you have a fast forward button. Sadly, his bloated vanity project is about a half hour too long, and a couple of exciting moments too short. With its bright colors and faked out worlds, it's nothing more than the second coming of Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy. It's a night out at the "Cosmic Bowling Alley". Definitely better viewed with yourself in control of the story.
There is a better Blu-Ray two-disc version out there. Sadly, this particular version is light on the extras. We get the featurette Spritle in the Big Leagues, which has the film's co-star Paulie Litt taking us on a fun, quick tour of the sets. And then there is Speed Racer: Supercharged!. This featurette allows us into the world of cars and racetracks as seen in the film. It is all promotional fluff that isn't necessary. Where's the commentary? That's what I'd like to have heard. I almost forgot, with the proof of purchase, you can send away for a Digital Download copy of the film. Why didn't they just include it? Again, that doesn't make any sense.
F'ing gorgeous. This is one of the best-looking DVDs to ever come down the pike. You're eyes will melt around the mid-way point. It is a visual feast that will have your Plasma screen popping with loud colors.
The film is presented in English SDH. It is also presented in English Dolby Digital Surround 5.1, French Dolby Digital Surround 5.1, and Spanish Dolby Digital Surround 5.1.
I don't like this packaging at all. It should be nothing but cars and the title. There is too much going on here. It is very busy, and it hurts my eyes almost more than the film itself does. Its sort of vomitous, like a picture of a moving carnival ride. And I don't like seeing the film's star, either. The back of the box is a little more attractive, with a nice cast layout and metallic colors. Though, it liked to hide the fact that there are any special features on this disc at all.
THE FINAL WORD
If you missed it in the theater, which I'm more than certain you did, you should definitely check it out on DVD. It is an experience, to say the least. It's just far too long and self-indulgent. But, hey! That's what the fast forward button is for.
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