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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Cars > Action > Racing > Speed Racer (2008/Blu-ray + DVD-Video/Warner Home Video)

Speed Racer (2008/Blu-ray + DVD-Video/Warner Home Video)


Picture: B/B-     Sound: B/B-     Extras: D     Film: D



“No Speed Racer, nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!”



When a movie is as bad as Speed Racer, people who have not seen it often ask me if the film can really be that bad.  After all, the original series is a classic in its U.S. syndicated 1960s version or original, unedited 1960s Japanese version and the material is still as interesting and enduring as it ever was.  The several animated revivals were disasters including the new Next Generation dud, a few attempts to do a live action feature were considered, including one where Johnny Depp would have been Speed and Nicolas Cage as Racer X.  Then the film was finally greenlit by Warner Bros. and we got this mess.


Emile Hirsch was cast as Speed, Matthew Fox as Racer X and all in the hands of The Wachowski Brothers, whose Matrix films were a big enough hit and darker films like Bound and V For Vendetta (which they produced) are still more than noteworthy.  The duo decided to make the film into a giant global candy car world with colors to match, slanted towards comedy and the first film they and producer Joel Silver ever explicitly made for a young audience.  The result is their first PG film and possibly their last.


So what went wrong?  Hirsch was passable as Speed and somewhat looks the part, but he seems petulant and his dialogue is often flat.  Racer X is underdeveloped.  The inclusion of Chim Chim is a mistake, though Paulie Litt deserves points for bringing Spritle to life in his original heavy form (versus an animated version where he was “skinny/healthy”) instead of a PC redux, John Goodman as Pops and Susan Sarandon as a mother nearly nonexistent mother in the original show are obvious but competent and then there is Christina Ricci as Trixie.  Oh, geez!


In one of the worst performances of the year if not all time, Ricci is supposed to be Speed’s girlfriend, but is almost as too old as Diana Ross was playing Dorothy in The Wiz walking around looking more like his teen mother than a girlfriend.  In addition, her idea of acting in the role is more about slowly bating her oversized eyelashes than giving any kind of performance, but at least the eyelashes are young enough to be on Speed’s girlfriend.  Will The Razzies remember this?


Giving Sparky a British accent is not a problem and the international casting may seem unlike the show at first, until you remember the crazy mix of characters the old show had, so it is not as much of a stretch.  The irony of Japanese animators doing Americanized Disney faces on the characters is another story, but that part is fine.


However, the main problems include the film starting ideas is cannot seem to finish or follow through on, as if the mere suggestion (think the 1998 Godzilla) is adequate, but with the huge budget here, an insult and joke.  There is the stupid figure-eight race track that already proved stupid in the 2002 Rollerball remake, but this film seems to want to repeat many such mistakes throughout.  That goes down to the children’s approach, which puts it at least two generations away from the original show, but easily reflect the bad liberties all the revivals have in common.


This becomes a tired and very long and drawn-out affair at 135 minutes, which is too long for material this thinned out for a young audience to enjoy.  The whole thing was shot in High Definition video, which may be colorful, but is also weak and with CG animation of the silly, unrealistic races rendered in technology that is a few generations behind the far superior Pixar Cars, it looks like a bad videogame that sat on the shelf too long.


This new Speed Racer was a huge mistake, starting with its lack of respect for the original show, which remains a serious classic and this remake will go down as one of the biggest missed opportunities of all time.



The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image is somewhat soft on the Blu-ray and anamorphically enhanced DVD, but they insisted on an HD-only shoot and that was the biggest mistake of its kind since Bryan Singer shot Superman Returns that way, but I guess it will take two bombs/near-brake evens for Warner to comer to their sense on spending so much money on this early kind of HD.  David Tattersall, B.S.C., at least knows how to give hit some form, but is fighting a losing battle; one that becomes increasingly obvious as you watch this again.  That is if you don’t fall asleep.


The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is weak on both formats, with the Blu-ray having slightly better AC-3, but the few defenders of this mess rightly complained that it should have been Dolby TrueHD on the Blu-ray.  That would further prove that it’s decent, if characterless sound mix could not save it and to think this was blown up for IMAX.  Those who were not happy with the film still praised Michael Giacchino for delivering a good score, but it was adequate at best for me and considering what he was given to score, could have been worse.


Extras are the same for both releases, including the Digital Copy disc (a separate DVD had to be included in the Blu-ray set for this), but the Blu-ray adds a dumb DVD game dubbed the Crucible Challenge.  It is as weak and lame as the film.  Both versions also give you three featurettes on the making of the film, but they just show the anatomy of this annoying bomb.


For another look at how bad this film was, try our review of the original theatrical release:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


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