Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) is eager to follow in the footsteps of his racing idol brother Rex Racer, who died tragically years ago. After turning down a lucrative offer from Royalton Industries' maniacal owner (Roger Allam), his idealist notions are shattered to learn some of the biggest races are fixed. In order to save his car-designer father Pops Racer (John Goodman)'s business and with the support of Mom (Susan Sarandon), girlfriend Trixie (Christina Ricci), baby brother Spritle (Paulie Litt) and pet chimp Chim-Chim, Speed teams with his one-time rival the mysterious Racer X (Matthew Fox) to try to win the race that took his brother's life - the death defying, cross-country rally known as The Crucible. But between Speed and the finishing line are the world's best and most cutthroat competitors, eager to claim the million dollar bounty from Royalton to the driver who eliminates Speed.
Review by Louise Keller:
All those who saw and enjoyed The Matrix Trilogy will know that the Wachowski brothers don't do anything by halves. Their latest offering is a slice of multi-digital heaven, if you happen to be a teenage boy, that is. Creating visual styles that break boundaries is what Andy and Larry Wachowski do best, and Speed Racer is a thrilling triumph of multi-layered visual storytelling, combining CGI with live action and involving mind boggling race sequences that use virtual real-life exotic locations as backdrops. Scenes slide into each other with the smooth transition of a racing car effortlessly changing lanes. Additionally, there's a solid story that involves loyalty, deception, the will to win and the love of family, all in a hyper-stylised world drenched with bright colours that feel as though they have been borrowed from a magical rainbow.
Based on the 60s Japanese animated series, the Wachowskis have created a mind-tripping family film that endorses good ethics, hard work and family values. The drink of choice after the checkered flag comes down is not the customary magnum of champagne, but wholesome, bottled milk. 'A car's a living breathing thing - all you have to do is close your eyes and listen,' Speed's older brother Rex (Scott Porter) tells him as a child. It is not hard to believe when you see the capabilities of these cars that jump, twist and turn and do gymnastics in mid air. The cars are also built with the kind of weapons James Bond would drool over, enabling mid-race combat at a highly sophisticated level. There are over 2,000 visual effect shots in the film and looking at the seemingly endless list of visual, special effects, compositors, animators, CG supervisors, digital effects artists, modellers, rotoscope artists and the like at the end of the film, it is not hard to understand where the estimated $120 million budget was spent.
Beyond the look of the film, the characters are well written on the page and brought to life by a top cast. Emile Hirsch is perfect as the clean-cut racer in tune with his car, John Goodman larger than life as his car-designer father, Susan Sarandon as the wholesome mom who keeps the family together and Christina Ricci as Speed's feminine girlfriend who can become anyone he needs her to be. Roger Allam makes a juicy villain and there are continuing laughs from the antics of eleven year old Spritle (Paulie Litt) who pops up in the most unexpected places with his mischievous pet chimp Chim-Chim. Korean pop sensation Rain also makes an appearance and watch out for Aussie Kick Gurry, who does a great job playing Sparky, the Racer family's kooky gearhead. If you have a teenage son or friend, get him to take you along - it's quite a trip!
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SPEED RACER (PG)
CAST: Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci, John Goodman, Susan Sarandon, Matthew Fox, Kick Gurry, Roger Allam, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rain, Benno Fuhrmann, Richard Roundtree
PRODUCER: Grant Hill, Joel Silver, Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski
DIRECTOR: Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski
SCRIPT: Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski
CINEMATOGRAPHER: David Tattersall
EDITOR: Roger Barton, Zach Staenberg
MUSIC: Michael Giacchino
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Owen Paterson
RUNNING TIME: 135 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 12, 2008