Film Review: Speed Racer

By Chris Porter
June 27, 2009

I haven’t done a movie review in a coon’s age (a ‘coon’s age’? really?), so bear with me. This review concerns a movie released last year called Speed Racer. I rented it on the recommendation of a fan, and former friend. I say “former”, because the contract on his life hasn’t been fulfilled yet as of this entry.

I’ll admit, I was never particularly fond of the old Speed Racer cartoons. As an artist, I always thought they were way too childish as well as poorly drawn. I dismissed them as 3rd rate cartoons, probably concocted in some asian anime studio sweatshop cranked out 10 at a time by workers paid a nickel a day. I’d imagine the price was immediate seppuku for anyone failing to meet deadline. I think I secretly believed that American networks ran them just because they were so cheap to buy the rights to, much like the 10 for a buck knock-off toys you could get at a swap meet that ended up broken into dangerous shards by day’s end, but for the networks, it simply filled up otherwise unused airtime.

I suppose I just never assumed there could ever be a following for such a thing. I realised later on in my mid-to-late 20s just how mistaken I’d been.

For those of you blessed with being completely ignorant of this series, I envy you, I really do. Lucky bastards. But here is where I feel I must describe the show’s ridiculous premise, so that you have an inkling of what I’m talking about from here on out.

First, introductions. Per it’s namesake, the show revolved around the Speed Racer character, a teenaged boy who was obviously doomed from birth to be cemented into his eventual occupation because the name “Speed” doesn’t quite play as favorably for a brain surgeon, or perhaps a captain of the bomb squad. That, or his father “Pops” secretly loved tormenting his children, which is a distinct possibility, given the other unfortunate name he bestowed to his youngest spawn, “Spritle”. It is quite evident old Pops loved his #1 son the most, choosing to give him at least the somewhat normal, albeit distinctly Americanized name “Rex”. The mother went by the moniker “Mom”, and Spritle’s pet and best friend was a chimp named “Chim Chim”. Yes, subtlety was either a concept completely lost on the Racer clan, or the show’s creators have the imaginations of a block of wood. I give either theory equal plausibility.

Speed’s crafty sweetie was called “Trixie”, and she always seemed the more intelligent part of the equation. She was in part Speed’s track groupie pal and perpetual ass saver all wrapped up in a cutsie little brunette bundle of adoration. She sometimes flew a helicopter to help Speed see what pitfalls and shenanigans were up ahead when he was racing, yet other moments even raced herself when the time called for it. Never winning herself, of course, she was primarily a vehicle to help Speed obtain his own goals. In short, she is the perfect submissive characature men in asian cultures wished their opposite sex counterparts behaved like 24-7.

speedracer1The true co-star of the show was Speed’s own racing machine, a technological marvel of automotive resilience that only the best and brightest 1970’s imaginations could come up with, the Mach 5. With its open-topped roadster badassery, the Mach 5 was proudly crafted from the speed shop of Pops Racer himself. So, for you not fully understanding, in addition to crafting the Mach 5, naming his kid “Speed Racer” for fuck’s sake and generally leaving him no other option for a career path, Pops was also Speed’s crew chief, manager and overall buzzkill. In every scene he graced, he seemed to constantly berate Speed for something or other, always pushing him to do better in his racing techniques. He was the personification of a domineering parent living life through his offspring. Let’s face it. Pops is an asshole.

Next, backstory. The #1 son Rex, seemingly the true apple of Pop’s eye, came under some scrutiny during his racing career due to some techniques he utilized to win races being found ‘questionable’ by the racing league. In other words, he apparently lost his shit and rammed too many fuckers into guardrails or off of cliffs to get the job done. You know, that SAME SHIT you saw in EVERY intro to every Speed Racer cartoon? I’m guessing he only did this as a way to combat the stress his overly critical father injected into his miserable life on a day-to-day basis. However, let me get this straight: whatever-the-fuck racing officials that sanction this kind of said “racing” had a PROBLEM with this? I mean, c’mon! Cars with turbo boosts, wheels that retract tire shredding blades and systems capable of launching said autos 10 fucking feet into the air are perfectly acceptable, but swapping some paint with another car is taboo? What. Ever. Anyway, Rex, seizing this opportunity to permanently remove himself from under the thumb of oppression that was Pops Racer, announces he is deciding to go it alone, much to the chagrin of daddy who threatens to disown him if he goes through with it. On his exit, he leaves Speed the keys to the Mach 5. Later he is presumably killed in a tragic accident during a race, but the body is never found, and that is the last we know of Rex. Or is it?

Later on, a mysterious new driver, deemed “Racer X” enters into the fray, quickly becoming an ass-kicking driver to be reckoned with. Wait. Racer X? Rex? R-ex? OHHHH. You crafty, crafty asians…

So, while it’s bleedingly obvious that “Racer X” is Speed’s older sibling, Speed as well as the rest of the Racer clan are completely clueless, confounded by this new masked driver’s prowess, even though he shares the same driving technique, tends to help Speed whenever he is in a bind and even distills sage brotherly wisdom in the EXACT same voice his former brother possessed. Let’s face it: Speed and the rest of the Racer family are fucking idiots.

Totally least in cast contributions to the show is the littlest sibling and overall worthless douchebag, “Spritle” and his annoying sidekick, “Chim Chim”. The Racers would have been better off sticking with two boys and jettisoned this turd. As the useless 3rd son of a championship-class racing family, Spritle should have understood his place early on and just overdosed on heroin. It was obvious that Pops Racer was too consumed with running the lives of his two older boys to be much of an influence on this kid. I guess that would explain the stupid monkey companion. I’m imagining on his 4th birthday, the Racer parents presented him with Chim Chim, and said, ” There you go, Spritle. This is the first and last friend you’ll ever have as well as the closest you’ll ever get to real human affection. Now you two run along. I have to get the Mach 5 ready for your brother’s race next week. Fuck off.” So, Spritle was ignored into becoming little more than the show’s pathetic attempt at comic relief. Him and Chim Chim would stow away in whatever modes of transportation the true stars of the series were commandeering, and pop out at the most inopertune times, like when Speed was trying to make time with Trixie, to induce gut-busting laughs. Mostly, it annoyed the shit out of everyone. Lets face it: Spritle was the biggest cock-blocker to ever grace cartoons. Speed should have curb stomped the little shit when he had a chance. Pops, Mom and the rest of viewing audience wouldn’t have noticed.

Finally, the movie and review.

speedracer2Getting back to how wrong I was about the Speed Racer following, I started seeing bits of ads for the live action movie around the end of 2007. Rewinding a bit, back into my 20’s, I was a typical dot-commer kid. I had moved to the Bay Area, and was living the dream working the fast-track to becoming the next Bill Gates, or so I believed. I worked in a posh, decadent, established Silicon Valley computer company where I met a lot of friends I still share today. One of those friends had given himself the company moniker of “racerx”. He admitted to being a big fan of the franchise, so I constantly berated him for it. So, after numerous chides, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and catch some of the old episodes on Cartoon Network in hopes that with age, it might soften my harsh earlier preconceptions of Speed Racer cartoons from my childhood.

Well, it didn’t. In fact, they proved beyond reasonable doubt that they were even MORE retarded than I previously gave them credit for.

So, fast forward back to ’07, when some of my friends are raving about the release of this new Speed Racer live action film. During the opening credits for some other movie, I finally witnessed the full trailer. I was stunned. If any of you remember the abortion of film known as Super Mario Bros., THAT was exactly what came to mind upon viewing it. It looked just like said movie, only with racing. I was chilly with absolute astonishment that someone not only pitched this idea to the movie studio, but said studio AGREED this was a good idea and gave it the fucking GREEN LIGHT!

Needless to say, I should have gone with my gut reaction and never thought of it ever again after that moment. It did horribly in the box office, just as my gut TOLD me it would.

But, I’m a soft idiot, and I took it on faith from a good friend (a closet fan, which I’m now finding out) that it was ‘sorta hokey’, but definately worth a rent. So, this last Friday, I rented it with a stable of others, because I obviously HATE MYSELF.

It was the first thing I popped into the DVD player thankfully, so at least there was a trove of other decent movies (IE: every other one I rented) to wash the taste out of my mouth. Yeah. It was THAT BAD.

The Cast: Emile Hirsch plays Speed. Meh. Matthew Fox plays Racer X – really? Dude, I sorta like your work, what are youdoing here, man? John Goodman plays Pops – Whoa, WHAT?!? Uh, John, I hope the scratch was VERY green on this one, bro… Christina Ricci plays Trixie – OOOoooohh no. My dear, my love, my lust. Why do you betray me so? Who the fuck blackmailed you into this? I’ll have his goddamned head! Susan Surrandon plays Mom – *covers eyes* No. I refuse to believe this shit, I REFUSE!! This was all simply my imagination, yeah that’s it! There was no Speed Racer live action film played by a host of awesome talent. Ha. HahaHAhaha. *opens eyes, sees DVD cover, can touch said DVD cover*shit!

The Plot: The film opens to a young speed in elementary school, forever daydreaming of being a championship race driver like his older brother. The older brother, Rex, is a successful race driver, and Pops is, well Pops. He is a bit less anal-retentive from the one in the cartoons, however (WHY John, why?)… Mom Racer is simply window dressing. You should never use Susan Surrandon as window dressing. Mistake #1. So, loyal to the shitty cartoon’s script, we go through the angst of Rex Racer coming to grips with the fact that he is fucking tired of his idiot family, and he bails, leaving the Mach 5 to younger brother Speed. He becomes instantly successful, and… really, who the hell cares? The twist on this is that the Rex is played by Scott Porter, who I didn’t mention in the casting paragraph because I don’t know who the fuck he is (although he has the greatest last name in all of Hollywood :)), and RacerX is played by Fox. Roger Allam (‘V for Vendetta’) is the CEO of a large corporation looking to acquire (blackmail?) Speed as his feature driver. Speed ultimately refuses, and the ruthless CEO vows to destory him for his resistance. For the rest of the movie, Speed continues to kick the shit out of the CEOs drivers, ultimately becoming the champion, and all is right with the world. Woo Hoo. THE END.

The Pros: That I broke free from its feces-inducing trance, and turned this fucking piece of cinematic Wachowski Bros. driven donkey turd off 3/4 of the way through so that I didn’t develop a brain aneurism. The little fuck who played Spritle was the only redeeming factor, as viewers got a taste of just how useless this character is in live action.

The Cons: Every, every, every every every every everything. Everything! Fuck! Where to even begin… The movie is an orgy of color-induced, retardly written, CGI-at-its-worst, most wooden acting ever suckfest. The ‘racing’ is such that it defies all laws of gravity, physics and even reality. I believe Christina Ricci was kidnapped, her brain was removed and replaced with a kumquat to prepare her for the ‘Trixie’ role. The CGI… Oh, the fucking CGI. Too much pain, man, too fucking MUCH. Every scene, and I mean EVERY scene is seemingly over green-screened so much to even make the backgrounds in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” seem stale. Most of the scenes didn’t require this, but I’m assuming the Wachowskis snorted another rail and said “fuck it! MORE COLORS!” on set at all times during the making of this stinker.

Now, I wasn’t totally biased, I did ask a focus group, namely my best friend’s son of 7 years-old if he had seen it. His response was, “no way, Uncle Chris, that movie is for kids! Game, set, match BITCHES.

The Verdict: If you hate your kids, take them to see this. Heck BUY this at one of the inevitable dollar bins it’s destined to end up at as a form of punishment, should your crotch droppings get out of line. You will raise perfectly respectable members of society if you stick to the Speed Racer system of child rearing. Unless your kid is retarded, then he/she might actually ENJOY it, and then all bets are off. In this case, immediately burn said copy, and go with something else. In a nutshell, this film is rubbish, bordering on unwatchable. May gawd have mercy on your soul.

Rating: 1 out 5 stars

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