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SPEED RACER (article first published : 2008-06-30)

Frantic editing, garish colour, cluttered scenes, over-the-top performances and loads of style over substance.

That, in a nutshell, is what you get from , this giddy, turbo-charged new ride from the Wachowski brothers, Andy and Larry, the trend-setting film-makers who gave us The Matrix trilogy. Inspired by a Japanese animated series, the movie has Emile Hirsch of Into the Wildfame as the title character, a boy in a future America who dreams of following in the tyre tracks of his driving champ older brother. But when he turns down a lucrative offer from a bigwig company owner (Roger Allam) and then discovers some of the biggest races are being fixed, Speed is steered towards a dangerous adventure.

An assortment of colourful characters, good and bad, pop up en-route in a film that concludes with a ferocious race through glaciers and deserts, that sees cars become airborne and unleashing secret weapons to win at all costs.

The film has Susan Sarandon and John Goodman as Speedís parents and tubby young Paulie Litt as his kid brother - who easily qualifies as the most irritating child star I have ever seen on screen. That his sidekick is a grinning, hyperactive chimpanzee doesnít help make things any easier.

Speed Racerís plot is convoluted but really rather empty, the characters pretty much cardboard. The real thrill is in the exciting, imaginative visuals and the Wachowski duoís clever scene-changing technique of having images track in to overlap and erase those that have come before. Very effective, especially when multiple images come and go.

But Speed Racer, be warned, is an exhausting ride and the colour overload is so excessive that it makes Charlie and the Chocolate Factory seem monochrome by comparison, to quote my otherwise smitten son-in-law.

The movie also features Christina Ricci, as Speedís girlfriend Trixie, Lost hunk Matthew Fox as the masked and mysterious Racer X and Asian pop star Rain as a rival driver called Taejo. Rating 7/10 Ė Billy Suter




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