Wednesday, May 14, 2008

‘Speed Racer’ has a chimp, cars and plenty of stars

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Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) watches as Racer X (Matthew Fox) blocks a punch from Taejo Togokahn (Korean pop star Rain) in a scene from ‘‘Speed Racer.”
Speed Racer

Rated PG. 120 minutes.


Cast: Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci, John Goodman, Susan Sarandon, Matthew Fox, Scott Porter, Paul Litt, Roger Allam.Director: Andy and Larry Wachowski.

Siblings Andy and Larry Wachowski, the masterminds behind ‘‘The Matrix” trilogy, bring their unique filmmaking style to ‘‘Speed Racer,” a Japanese cartoon that became a stateside success in 1967. Its over-the-top plots and wacky cast feature Speed’s younger brother Spritle and the family chimpanzee Chim-Chim.

Using dynamic styling, they explain in flashbacks how Speed (Emile Hirsch) became a renowned driver.

Speed idolized his fearless older brother Rex (Scott Porter), who set course records before Speed could touch the gas pedal and died in a tragic accident.

The plot revolves around business mogul Royalton (Roger Allam) who wants Speed to be his new driver. Speed isn’t sure he wants a sponsor, especially since he wants to keep it all in the family with his father, Pops (John Goodman) maintaining his car.

Speed soon realizes Royalton is a powerful enemy. It will take all his driving skill, his family and aid from the mysterious Racer X (Matthew Fox) to defeat him.

The cast also includes Susan Sarandon playing Speed’s mother and Christina Ricci as his girlfriend Trixie. Even with the star power, ‘‘Speed Racer” is about the races, providing that edge of your seat adrenaline rush. And the cars equipped with hi-tech gadgets would make James Bond jealous.

As in ‘‘The Matrix,” the use of bright colors and elaborate backgrounds are key. To achieve a cartoon-look, both the foreground and background are never out of focus.

The movie’s length is the sole minor complaint. While it should have ended after one particularly exciting race, there were still 35 minutes and another grand race to go.