My eyeballs hurt. My head hurts. I feel tired. Watching Speed Racer has me feeling all the nastiness of a hangover but without any of the hard-partying fun. I tried coming up with other analogies for the experience of seeing this nauseating, candy-colored whirlpool of a movie, with most of my attempts having to do with sugar, dizziness and a resultant sad, empty feeling, but it appears that most other reviews have already done the legwork in this regard.
Some of the descriptions with which I most heartily agree include the following:
- From MSNBC's Alonso Duralde:
"Imagine someone pouring hot, melted Starburst candies into your corneas, and you just begin to approximate the experience of Speed Racer, an ice-cream headache of a movie."
- From The New Yorker's Anthony Lane:
"The entire movie, indeed, is what Tom Wolfe would call a Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, complete with achingly blue skies, customized deserts, fantastical mountains, and everything from Goodman’s shirt to Ricci’s fingernails daubed in lollipop hues; it makes the world of Pee-wee Herman look like Anselm Kiefer. So how did this rainbow of velocity end up bleached of fun?"
- From Film Journal International's Frank Lovece:
"It's all a bombastic mishmash that makes you feel like you've been stuffed inside a kaleidoscope and shaken for two hours."
- From The New York Observer's Rex Reed:
"I can sit through just about anything, but I draw the line at two hours and 15 minutes of fuchsia vomit. To suffer through this kind of hell, movie critics deserve combat pay."
- And my very favorite, from New York Magazine's David Edelstein:
"The film is like a nightmare in which you’re trapped in an arcade with screens on all sides and no eyelids."
So, you're probably getting the picture, but still,
Speed Racer tells a fairly convoluted story of greed, the evils of capitalism, family and car racing. Speed is a boy (played by Emile Hirsch) whose sole interest is driving a race car. He idolized his brother Rex until Rex apparently brought shame to the sport and died in a fiery crash. Now Speed loyally races for his father's motor company and he ignites the rage of crazy corporate tycoon Royalton (Roger Allam) when he refuses to race for the Royalton company. Royalton is a shady organization that forces its racers to cheat and demolishes anyone who threatens to beat one of their own, since a Royalton loss would bring down Royalton stock value. See? There is a whole subplot about stocks! I'm not even a kid and I was so bored by so much of this film.
The performances are more or less fine (I think?) given the situation, though the actors often appear to be cracking under the immense strain to breathe real life into a world that literally doesn't exist around them. Clocking in at two hours and 15 minutes, this assault on the senses is way too long to hold the brief attention span of a child, and it's frankly just not enjoyable for adults. So, aside from the visuals (which are cool for about twenty minutes, but what to do with the last 115?), I frankly can't recommend seeing this movie. There's just no point.
To see the trailer and more videos from Speed Racer, check out movies.ivillage.com.
Photos courtesy of Warner Bros.