Cast: Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci
Matthew Fox, Susan Sarandon, John Goodman
Paulie Litt, Benno Fürmann, Roger Allam
The good news: the Wachowski brothers have made a faithful adaptation of the 1960's famous Japanese anime series.
The bad news is that this adaptation is so true to its source that it even acquired its sense of irrelevance, dullness and an idea of fake nostalgia powered by the same sense of expectation that made it popular during its era.
Story goes something like this, Speed (Hirsch) is the second son of the Racer family. Since he was a little kid he's been obsessed with cars, no wonder considering his whole family has been in the business forever. When he grows up he becomes a professional racer trying to live up to his, deceased, brother Rex's legacy.
His life, when he's not racing, pretty much consists of his interactions with his family. Pops (Goodman) is a jolly, overprotective man, Mom (Sarandon) is a perky, barely there female role model.
There's also his youngest, mischievous, brother Spirtle (Litt) who's always getting in trouble with his pet chimpanzee Chim Chim, loyal family mechanic Sparky (Kick Gurry) and Speed's girlfriend Trixie (Ricci), a feisty racer herself, who bats her eyelashes whenever she needs to prove her own driving abilities or when trying to get Speed out of the chastity they live in.
After his great performance in several races, Speed gets contacted by Royalton (Allam) a corrupt corporation owner who offers to sponsor him in exchange for wealth beyond his imagination.
When Speed refuses, Royalton tries to take his career down, leading the hero to team up with the mysterious Racer X (Fox) in order to uncover an evil plot, compete in the Grand Prix and live up to having a movie named after him.
The ultimate in CGI extravaganzas, the Wachowski brothers create a complete, saccharin infused universe made out of colorful buildings, video game like skies and camera flashes.
Somewhere in the middle of this we're supposed to catch the jaw dropping races all the characters keep referring to, but what we see is mostly flashing, "whoosh"es and our watches as the film extends to a luxurious, and unjustifiable, 135 minute running time.
The cast does its best to play the flat part of anime characters, with Ricci and especially Fox (who combines angst, sexiness and raw manliness in completely unexpected ways) stealing each of their scenes.
Hirsch might come off as one of the biggest problems since he never becomes more than the cartoon character. His heroic qualities come to him by default as we never feel the spark that makes him want to race so much.
He talks about it and his concentrated frown seems to be tailor made for us to realize he's going through some deep enlighting process, but Hirsch is as wooden and distant as anyone from "The Matrix".
Then again, wasn't the original Speed Racer the exact same way? Hirsch might be in fact giving a good performance that we're unable to enjoy because the character he's playing isn't worthy of being emulated.
A confusing experience, in more than one way, the Wachowski brothers try to deliver a political essay that talks about the dangers of capitalism.
But what exactly do they have to say for themselves when they try to shove this into a multimillion summer blockbuster?
Even more, how can they justify these thoughts when they go and use Speed in the very same way they condemn their characters for trying to do.
To the Wachowskis, Speed Racer is nothing more than a commodity; a perfect excuse to try out their new technological gadgets while underestimating an audience that needs much more than speed.
For teenagers "Speed Racer" doesn't come near to delivering the thrills and excitement they get from being the heroes behind the wheel, in real life or in the ever more realistic video games that are released every week.
Plus, when they're playing they don't need to go through the characters' unsufferable line readings and emotionless actions.
For little kids the experience might feel more like a mission to go through than any fun and for parents who might worry their kids will suffer some kind of seizure with the cornucopia of color and movemement, watching the film will probably be more about keeping an eye out on their children. But they not need worry, for "Speed Racer" drags so much that they'll be long asleep before any risky sequences.
For a movie that brags so much about being driven as opposed to merely driving, "Speed Racer" is often in urgent need of a tow.