Review: ‘Speed Racer’

While Speed Racer may not win first place for the weekend, there’s really no reason why it shouldn’t.

Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) has always wanted to be a race car driver, following in the tire tracks of his big brother Rex. After a family falling out and subsequent tragedy, Speed takes up where his brother left off. When an industry tycoon named Royalton (Roger Allam) is turned down by Speed to race for him professionally, Royalton goes after Speed and his family any way he can, including fixing races by targeting Speed on the track. The mysterious Racer X (Matthew Fox) offers a solution to ruin Royalton and revealing him for the villain he is, but it will take everything Speed Racer has plus the support of his family and friends to prove there’s still one race car driver who can never be bought.

After reading some early reviews, I can only wonder: what movie were “they” watching? Keep in mind that the task the Wachowskis took on was to create a believable world where high-tech, rocket-assisted, fuel-celled race cars are equipped standard with on-board jump-jacks and enough ultra-light, polymer car body armor to take several hits throughout a race without slowing down. In addition, they also had to build a story to accommodate the Racer family history and other elements into the film, celebrating what made Speed Racer fun to watch without making fun of the source material. The result is a film fans should love and parents can enjoy taking their entire families to.

From the very beginning of the film, viewers are treated to a rich, colorful, utopian world of the future where everything is clean and the skies are blue. Some of the interiors are reminiscent of Dick Tracy, using base colors with almost no texture to mirror the clean lines of a cartoon. At the same time, the cast is spot-on with their characters: Racer X is still the coolest, Spritle (Paulie Litt) and his pet monkey Chim-Chim stir up trouble but still manage to help out in critical situations, Mom and Pops Racer (Susan Sarandon and John Goodman) are very much the concerned parents, and Trixie (Christina Ricci) actually manages to get away with lines like “Hubba hubba” and “Cool beans” without sounding foolish or looking any less beautiful.

From the villains behind the scenes to the dirty drivers themselves, everything that made the cartoon fun is here, even the Mammoth Car. The editing, however, is what amazingly holds the film together for over two hours, because, frankly, there’s almost too much story to fit in. Flashbacks are appropriate and revealed as they need to be, keeping the story going forward as it races towards a ending that, while predictable, is still no less satisfying. The entire production is self-contained and demands no sequel, so I have to ask: what more was anyone looking for, or is it that they just can’t imagine a story this fantastic can actually be told at all? At one point during the film, Speed reveals that his family treats racing like a religion. If that’s true, don’t accuse me of being a Speed Racer apologist; I’m a convert.

(a three and a half skull recommendation out of four)


  1. I agree with this review. I saw the movie today after reading how most of the critics bashed it. After having seen it.. honestly, I don’t get hate for it. I liked the film. Whenever critics state their opinion.. it must be remembered that it’s not truth. It’s their opinion. I found the movie very enjoyable. Then again I wasn’t expecting another matrix movie, or another V movie. I was expecting a live action Speed Racer movie. That’s what I got, and it was a damn fine one at that.


  2. ‘Speed Racer’ isn’t tracking too well this weekend, but only Disney’s new Narnia flick ‘Prince Caspian’ is opening next weekend, and the buzz is far poorer with that than ‘Speed’ was this weekend. With any luck, word of mouth will give ‘Speed Racer’ the top spot next weekend before ‘Indy 4’ swoops in on May 22nd.


  3. I saw this movie with high expectations as many people warned me not to. I saw a car insurance commercial with Speed Racer and I had one of those moments where I’m like ” HOLY MOLY! I remember that show!” So anyway, I rented the show from Blockbuster and watched the whole first season. Then I ended up buying two seasons on Amazon(they were cheap, evidently)and I seriously love that show. So we saw it, and it totally showed up my unfaithful family( who also love the cartoon and were afraid they’d ruin it.)

    I was actually kind of worried that they would neglect Speeds awesome kick butt combat skills. BUT THEY DIDN’T!!

    It ruled so hard.


  4. Speed Racer isn’t going to top iron man, so there’s no way it’s going to be first, but it does have a chance to get second of narnia does really poorly

    which it probably won’t

    it’s looking like speed racer will probably have a short theater life because of all the highly anticipated movies coming out in the next couple weeks, and that’s a shame because i really, really liked this movie. It was completely and utterly ridiculous, which is exactly what I’d expect from a live-action speed racer movie.


  5. AMEN BROTHER!!! You nailed my thoughts exactly with your review.

    What the HELL are other people seeing? Sure, everyone has their right to an opinion, but from what some of the other critics have said (“no soul?!?!”), I seriously think there is some kind of conspiracy going on here.

    I *hated* The Matrix sequels with a PASSION (man, they SUCKED), but I still have the ability to let the past STAY in the past. I watched the movie with an open mind and was genuinely thrilled with it.

    Never before have I seen a movie with such black & white reviews — “Love it or hate it” takes on a whole new meaning with this film.

    Personally, I am very much in the “love it” camp.

    Thank you for your review!


  6. The Wachowski bros certainly put a lot of effort into making Speed Racer… the movie overall looked and felt like a cross between anime, a kaleidoscope, that Flintstones movie, a video game and the Dukes of Hazard


  7. 100% Agreed! What an awesome, fun, wild story-packed ride! I was completely swept away by the movie and it’s great characters. Can’t fathom what the critics are seeing, but I think it’s more what they’re NOT seeing. I think they shut themselves off and go on autopilot when they see certain things like the colorful world or the cartoon-like characters or the wild editing. It’s so deliciously easy for them to trash these things that they don’t even try to enjoy themselves or follow the nuances jam-packed into the script. I’ve never known a thing about the cartoon, and this just sucked me in and didn’t let go. Bravo!


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