3 Stars – Wholesome
Just as they did with The Matrix films, brothers Larry and Andy Wachowski wrote and directed Speed Racer. Based on the TV cartoon series by Totsuo Yoshido, they take the action and special effects to a new level while keeping the basic story line in place. However, the frenetic pace and complex visual imaging of this film are not like The Matrix films. In a fantasy futuristic world where the colors are as vibrant as the racing machines, the laws of physics are suspended while the laws of morality are strongly in place. A tale of good vs. evil, with family and loyalty highly praised, Speed Racer is a film with a simple message within the cacophony of sights and sounds that combines live actors in a computer-generated world.
The Racers are a loving, faithful family who live to race. The second-born son is named Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch from Into the Wild). Speed was born to drive race cars. Not only is his father, Pops Racer (John Goodman), a car designer, but his older brother, Rex Racer (Scott Porter), is his racing idol and allows him to drive even as a child. Mom Racer (Susan Sarandon) affirms his skill and explains that when Speed drives he is like an artist creating a work of art. Rounding out the family and also adding some delightful visual comedy is the youngest brother, Spritle (Paulie Litt), and his sidekick, Chim-Chim (played by two very expressive chimpanzees, Willy and Kenzie).
Just as in the earlier TV series, this film version also has Racer X (Matthew Fox of Lost) and Speed’s childhood friend and burgeoning girlfriend Trixie (Christina Ricci). Both play an important part in Speed’s life.
The conflict within the film is a familiar one of big, greedy business against the small, honest entrepreneur. Fixing the races in order to manipulate the stock market, Mr. Royalton (Roger Allan) at first tries to tempt Speed with the promises of wealth and pleasure in his automotive empire. When Speed resists, he angrily attempts to destroy Speed’s love for the sport by revealing that the heroes he looked up to had all sold out for money and fame.
Though we won’t tell how this moral struggle ends, the journey is full of betrayal, courage, intrigue, secrecy, faithfulness, skill and love. It is told in the exaggerated style of a comic, but it is true to life as it magnifies the choices we all have had to make.
Cinema In Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church. For more reviews, visit, www.cinemainfocus.com.