Fans of The Matrix may have been looking forward to the release of Speed Racer, but it is in an entirely different vein to the Wachowskis' smash hit from 1999. In fact, it bears more of an uncanny resemblance to the children's TV programme LazyTown, with its vivid, surreal colours and larger-than-life characters.
Speed Racer has an impressive cast, including Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci, Susan Sarandon, John Goodman and Roger Allam. As dependable as the acting is, the film suffers from a long and complicated plot. The hero, Speed Racer (yes, that's his name), has been obsessed by speed-racing from an early age, which gives rise to some of the more amusing scenes in the film. At elementary school, he is unable to concentrate on anything other than his passion (giving young children in the audience ideas for various scholarly misdemeanours). Speed idolises his older brother, Rex Racer, who is killed in a hotly contested race in very shady circumstances. Speed Racer grows up, gets together with Trixie (Christina Ricci), his childhood sweetheart, and becomes a racing star. He turns down an offer from a corporation, Royalton Industries, to drive for it, and therefore creates for himself a dangerous enemy in its owner (Allam), who will stop at nothing to prevent him from winning the the Crucible, the race that claimed Rex's life.
There are some entertaining gems thrown in to keep the audience interested, particularly involving Speed Racer's youngest brother, Spritle, and his pet, an impossibly cute chimp. The child and chimp undoubtedly steal the show with their antics, but the digitally enhanced car sequences are central to the film. Here, the racing cars can perform impossible feats only conceivable on the most complicated of Hot Wheels tracks.
The film is overlong, with far too much dialogue and too many confusing elements. The styling of the main characters gives the impression of 1950s America and yet the racing events are futuristic. The accents of the characters also add to the confusion. There is a concoction of Australian, English and American accents thrown together. When or where in the world this film is set is not alluded to, and doesn't seem to be integral to the plot.
It is hard to imagine that fans of the Matrix trilogy will be delighted with Speed Racer, but since it's classified as a PG film, young children who have a passion for car-racing will find much to enjoy.
Anna Corballis Fry, teacher, Bedford
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