Thursday, May 15, 2008

FDot breaks down "Speed Racer"

Directed by: Larry and Andy Wachowski

Written by: Larry and Andy Wachowski

Starring: Emile Hirsch, John Goodman, Susan Sarandon, Christina Ricci, an annoying monkey

The Short of it:
Good beginning, good ending, bloated middle

The Long of it:
Full disclosure here: My friend knows the night manager of a local theatre, so I've been seeing a number of movies recently for free, Speed Racer included. I believe that when one sees a movie for free, it does alter slightly one's perception of a movie. I'm a bit more forgiving of a movie when I don't have to shell out $11 to see it.

Speed Racer actually starts off quite well, quickly setting up the main character and his motivations. Much has already been said about the visuals of the movie, so I can't add much to that discussion. However, while they certainly are something to behold, by the end they just become part of the movie; there's no more WOW factor about the visuals at the end. The first 40 minutes zip by quite quickly, as the rest of the Racer family is introduced and the character arcs are set up. At the 40 minute mark, however, is when the movie takes a turn for the worse.

Speed has been approached by a large corporation about racing for them. Speed wants to maintain his Independence and chooses not to sign. This is where the villain of the piece launches into a large discussion about racing and how it's always operated and how certain races affect the stock prices of companies and the machinations that went into certain racer to enable takeover bids god I got lost listening to this. If this movie was rated PG-13, I might buy into a more complex description, but this is quite obviously a PG movie aimed at 10 year old, and what 10year old is interested in a minutes long discussion about the stock market?

That scene was just the precursor to an incredibly bloated middle section. The audience is treated to about 40 minutes of screen time on a cross country race only to serve a plot point that could have been wrapped up in 5. This was the main issue I had with the film. Slice off 45 minutes and Speed Racer would have been a great film, but it looks like the editor fell asleep. 135 minutes for a children's movie not about Harry Potter is a dicey proposition. The other main bloat issue was Spirtle and his monkey. I am aware that in the TV show these 2 served virtually the same purpose, but here they just detract from the story. While Speed is hearing about stock takeover bids, Spirtle and the monkey go on a candy eating spree at the company's headquarters, then take a joyride around on a cart until they are finally caught. What does that scene have to do with the movie. Nothing. It's just total filler, no doubt included to make young people laugh. Maybe it does, but it's scenes like this that just added to the running time. At least have Spirtle spot something or perform some task that will actually assist Speed Racer later on, but instead, he and the monkey are just comic relief that serve no purpose to the overall story.

At least Speed Racer does pick back up at the end. The final race and especially its finish is done quite well. Even I couldn't help getting excited watching it, even though I knew what the outcome would be. Obviously, everyone got exactly what was coming to them, good or bad.

The Sum Up: The visuals are fantastic, but don't WOW throughout the entire film. The story is needlessly convoluted and contains way too much filler, but the beginning and end of the film shine through and it's an enjoyable enough movie to sit through.


patrick said...

The Wachowski bros certainly put a lot of effort into making Speed Racer... the movie overall looked and felt like a cross between anime, a kaleidoscope, that Flintstones movie, a video game and the Dukes of Hazard

franzeska said...

At least have Spirtle spot something or perform some task that will actually assist Speed Racer later on,

Well... It didn't help Speed per se, but Spritle and Chim Chim eventually get caught because they go into a restricted area and spot the spear hook being tested. The point was to set up the idea that the spear hook use in the last race is a great big deal (since all the cars have special powers and it's hard to tell what counts as cheating). That's why Spritle starts yelling about Cannonball cheating before the stadium cameras pick up the hook.

I'm not saying that segment succeeded necessarily, but there was method to their madness.

FDot said...

Patrick: Agreed. Every dollar of that budget is up on the screen. The film could have been a little tighter though.

franzeska: I see what you mean. I remember the scene where they got caught, but must have missed the part with the spear hook. A better payoff would have been for Spirtle to warn Speed that Cannonball's car had the hook. Just realizing it from the stands doesn't add anything.