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Speed Racing to Nowhere, Fast

By Staff | May 20, 2008

Wachowski Brothers. Virtual Cinematography. Nuke Digital Domain HD software.  Cars splattering at the screen. Add a checkered cinematic flag for the team? Sorry, they tanked by not hypnotically displacing me from my cushioned seat and put me in the race car with Speed Racer sweating, dodging, and fighting for the checkered flag … and at time survival.

Blending live action with CGI, “Speed Racer” fails to deliver more than cardboard personalities uttering flat dialogue at each other. For that matter, none of the actors have chemistry with anyone. They might just as well be standing in front of a microphone doing voiceovers for the animated portions. You hear the gunning of the big engines starting and racing, but an opportunity to make the sounds better than an in-car NASCAR perspective hardly bothers any eardrum.

Ironically, the blurry, kaleidoscopic neon lights that surround a futuristic (say “Jetsons” like) city produce greater, visually creative fanfare than the roller coaster inspired racetracks that look challenging but deliver no airtime.

Let’s-face-it driver perspectives scramble the utmost suspense, particularly if they have a little sweat and lines of tension on their faces. These racers merely talk and steer when behind the wheel. The camera drifts away for crack-ups and often when explosions occur no attention is paid to driver survival.

The vehicles themselves look too much like model cars and as I alluded before, the drivers fail to coordinate properly with the smashes and clashes.

A modest morality play steers most of the scenario as a young, wonder driver decides whether to stick with the struggles of family name sponsorship or fall into the clutches of corporate greed, where the deals are not about skillful, artistic racing but how much money can be made on the often predetermined outcome.

Set design stands out too as the homes have bright red, yellow and orange neon,  which designates the land of camp and cheese, but overall it’s racked up such triteness that zoom equals boring too.

Two of the better feeble relationships concern Racer (Emile Hirsch) and his girl friend, Trixie (Christina Ricci), along with his young brother  and their pet chimpanzee. Matthew Fox (“Lost,” “We Are Marshall”) has a cameo as the mysterious Racer X.

There is one bright portion. If you hang past the fade out, a melodic, bubble gum rock song, go speed race, go speed racer, now — has a nice beat. You’ll have to stick through the credits to hear it. Hardly anyone did. Even the youngsters took concession breaks when they would normally be transfixed.

Contact Tony at trutherford@graffitiwv.com