Speed Racer’s Surprising Depth, Childish Charm
When I told my friends I was attending a sneak preview of Speed Racer, most brushed me off like I was going to the see Patrick Dempsey’s lousy chick flick. “I’m sure it will look good, but it won’t be good,” they said. Their voices echoed in my head throughout the film, but as the credits rolled, I was forced to make up my own mind. And guess what haters? I actually liked it!
Speed Racer’s frenetic cinematography and editing are a visual banquet, but not at the expense of an unexpectedly enjoyable plot peppered with decent acting. Sure Emile Hirsch plays a dim and flat Speed, but I doubt anyone could pull a dynamic performance out of that bare a character. Yet, pun intended, Hirsch does act as a vehicle for Racer’s star-clad cast (John Goodman, Susan Sarandon, Christina Ricci & Matthew Fox) to deliver their wonderfully cartoonish performances.
Half-way through the movie, an elderly lady in front of me muttered to her friend, “I’m confused.” Given that the film is an adaptation of a cartoon from her children’s era remixed for her video-game-obsessed grandchildren, I’m not remotely surprised Granny didn’t get it. And yet I fell right in the demographic sweet spot, eating up the understated and overstated with equal delight. I even found myself chuckling at the comic relief courtesy of the chubby little brother and his cheeky chimp. Hooray alliteration!
But what most surprised me about Speed Racer was the subtle depth of its moral lessons. Speed is a classic underdog, haunted by his past, racing from a world out to sideswipe him. And while the wicked president of Royalton Industries may appear to be his arch nemesis, we learn that he is just the latest face in a long history of corporate corruption and greed. Lecturing a naive Speed on the ugly underbelly of racing, Royalton bombastically declares, “all that matters is power and the unassailable might of money!” But the Racer family is out to claim that winning fairly, as a team, is worth more than anything. Right now, all the Wachowski brothers can think about is speeding past Iron Man at the box office. — Johnny