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WARNER

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski
Cast:
Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci, Nicholas Elia, John Goodman, Susan Sarandon, Matthew Fox
Writing Credits:
Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski, Tatsuo Yoshida (animated series, "Speed Racer")

Tagline:
From the Creators of The Matrix Trilogy Comes a World Built for Speed.

Synopsis:
Start your engines and fasten your seatbelts for the high-octane adventure Speed Racer, combining heartfelt family humor and groundbreaking visual effects. Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) is a natural behind the wheel of his thunderous Mach 5. With support from Pops and Mom Racer (John Goodman and Susan Sarandon), girlfriend Trixie (Christina Ricci), younger brother Spritle (Paulie Litt) and the mysterious Racer X (Matthew Fox), Speed takes on fierce competitors to save his family's business and protect the sport he loves. When Speed steps onto the track, it's not just a race. It's an adrenaline-fueled, high-speed charge to the finish. Go, Speed Racer, go!

Box Office:
Budget
$120 million.
Opening Weekend
$18.561 million on 3606 screens.
Domestic Gross
$43.929 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
French

Runtime: 135 min.
Price: $28.98
Release Date: 9/16/08

Bonus:
• ďSpritle in the Big LeaguesĒ Featurette
• ďSpeed Racer: Supercharged!Ē Featurette
• Previews


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Speed Racer (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 3, 2008)

Maybe someday Larry and Andy Wachowski will be credited other than as ďthe directors of the Matrix trilogyĒ, but it wonít happen today. 2008ís Speed Racer was their first flick since 2003ís disappointing Matrix Revolutions, and their only non-Matrix effort since 1996ís Bound. Though positioned as one of the yearís big summer blockbusters, Racer tanked. It took in a poor $43 million and became destined to be regarded as the yearís biggest disappointment.

Even as a child, all Speed Racer (Nicholas Elia) cared about was racing cars. His father Pops (John Goodman) designed cars, and he looked up to his older brother Rex (Scott Porter), a hotshot driver. Alas, that story ends in tragedy, as Rex sells out to some underworld rivals and then apparently dies in a crash.

Though rocked by these events, an older Speed (Emile Hirsch) follows in Rexís footsteps and becomes the driver of the zippy Mach 5. Supported by Pops, Mom (Susan Sarandon), girlfriend Trixie (Christina Ricci) and younger brother Spritle (Paulie Litt), Speed turns into the racing worldís newest sensation.

Speed resists many entreaties from sponsors, even when tycoon EP Arnold Royalton (Roger Allam) makes him a terrific offer. This earns Speed the enmity of Royalton and his cronies, and our hero learns about the corruption rampant in the World Racing League. With the assistance of the mysterious Racer X (Matthew Fox) and others, Speed attempts to fight back at the baddies and becomes the worldís greatest driver.

When I was young, I loved me some Speed Racer. We adults bemoan the five-cent animation, the idiotic stories and the one-dimensional characters, but kids donít care. I thought Speed was great stuff as a youngster, and I think modern kids still dig this stuff; a friendís three-year-old watches the show on a near-continuous basis.

Itís been so long since I was a fan of the series that I really canít remember a lot about it. This means I find it difficult to know which of the movieís stylistic choices emanated from the show and which ones developed from the Wachowskis. If the filmís cheesier elements were directly lifted from the series, I feel a little hesitant to criticize them.

But just a little, because I donít think the choice to stay true to source material should excuse tacky filmmaking. Thatís true in all instances, but especially so when the original work was as lame as the Racer TV series. Like I mentioned, I obviously donít begrudge little kids their enjoyment of the show, but face it - Racer really was pretty terrible. For a movie based on the series to be good, it needs to take advantage of the interesting parts of the series but eliminate the many crummy elements.

Since I canít remember the TV show very well, I canít make many comparisons between the two. I can say that the movie feels cheesy and silly much of the time. I canít say how many of these excesses come straight from the series, but they remain problems nonetheless, as the movie tends to be awfully goofy, and not in a good way.

In truth, it seems like the Wachowskis canít decide what audience they seek. Racer includes plenty of comedic, over the top bits clearly aimed at youngsters; who else would be entertained by the antics of Spritle and his chimp pal Chim-Chim? However, the movie comes with some adult language, a murky plot, and an excessive running time of 135 minutes, all of which distance it from a youthful crowd.

Itís unclear if the Wachowskis tried to serve two audiences and satisfied neither or if they just made a mess of a movie. Whatever the case may be, Racer lacks the thematic coherence to work for either the kids or the adults, an issue exacerbated by editing choices. Often the film undercuts drama with cutaways to wackiness. For instance, one scene in which Speed confronts Royalton gets intercut with shots of Spritle and Chim-Chim as they raid a massive candy stash. The latter elements completely rob the sequence of its impact.

Even during driving sequences, the Wachowskis canít leave well enough alone. Rather than focus solely on the action, they cut away to character introductions and other dalliances that distract us from the potential excitement. These decisions turn scenes that should dazzle into muddled, ineffective sequences.

Many films have been described as video games brought to the big screen, but Racer truly comes closer to that than anything else Iíve ever seen. The movie features a bright, wild palette that leaps off the screen, and the action bears no connection to reality. I donít mind the trippy colors, but the complete absence of the laws of physics becomes a bigger problem.

Sure, weíre supposed to see Racer as a cartoon fantasy, but the decision to treat the racing sequences like bits out of a video game saps them of excitement. Itís ironic that these over the top sequences actually become less effective due to their wildness, but itís true. Because the cars never behave like real vehicles, it becomes impossible to invest in the action. Itís all so silly and absurd that we donít care what happens, and the excitement level drops to near zero.

In truth, Speed Racer isnít a terrible movie, as it musters some minor entertainment value. Unfortunately, it runs too long and it cares too much about visual impact and too little about story telling. At no point do we ever really care what happens, and the cartoon action scenes are so goofy that they lack power. The movie stuns in terms of visuals but falls flat in every other way.


The DVD Grades: Picture A/ Audio A-/ Bonus C-

Speed Racer appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The DVD boasted a superb transfer that helped bring its visuals to life.

At all times, sharpness satisfied. Even in the movieís wide shots, the image remained crisp and well-defined. I noticed no signs of jagged edges or shimmering, and I found no signs of edge enhancement either. I expected a clean transfer, and I got one via this defect-free presentation; not a speck, mark or blemish appeared.

Racer featured an insanely dynamic palette, and the DVD demonstrated stunning color reproduction. Youíll find every trippy, candy-colored hue under the sun in this sucker, and the tones all looked absolutely great. I canít think of another movie as colorful as this one, and the DVD brought out the hues in a terrific way. Blacks were deep and dark, and shadows showed nice clarity and smoothness. I thought the image worked very well from start to finish.

While not as stellar as the picture, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Speed Racer still excelled. The soundfield proved consistently active and involving. Quieter scenes present a good sense of place and atmosphere, while the action sequences open things up in a dynamic manner. Cars zoomed and jumped around the room, and the scenes placed us in the action. Surround usage was quite full, and the mix created a strong setting for the adventure.

Audio quality was always excellent. Speech appeared natural and concise, with no edginess or other issues. Music seemed rich and dynamic, and effects followed suit. Those elements were crisp and clear, and they showed terrific bass response. The audio was good enough for an ďA-ď.

Speed Racer skimps on extras, as it only includes two featurettes. Spritle in the Big Leagues goes for 14 minutes, 33 seconds as it presents young actor Paulie Litt as he snoops around various parts of the production. Litt visits the prop shop, the chimp pen, the Racer house set, the green-screen gimbal, and the art, stunt, costume and visual effects departments.

While Litt takes his tour, the featurette also throws out ďPop-Up VideoĒ style blurbs about the flick that inform us about other areas. The piece leans too heavily on cutesy elements; Litt mugs for the camera like nobodyís business. Still, the show packs in a surprising amount of material into its short running time, so it gives us a decent glimpse of various parts of the production.

Speed Racer: Supercharged! lasts 15 minutes, 41 seconds. It acts as a promotion for the movieís ďWorld Racing LeagueĒ and provides details about the flickís many cars and driving teams. Since it treats them all as real, itís not exactly a realistic show, but itís still kind of cool to see the details of these fictional vehicles and characters.

A few ads open DVD One. We get clips for Fred Claus, Another Cinderella Story, Beetlejuice and Speed Racer: The Videogame. No trailer for Speed Racer appears here.

With its trippy visuals, Speed Racer looks unlike anything else from the summer 2008 crop of potential blockbusters. Unfortunately, it never succeeds as more than eye candy. The movie lacks much real drama or excitement; it throws visual splendor at us but fails to back up the images with anything else. The DVD looks and sounds great but lacks substantial extras. This is a great disc to use to show off your home theater, but the movie itself isnít very entertaining.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.1176 Stars Number of Votes: 17
65:
34:
0 3:
32:
51:
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