Speed Racer (2008)

Rated: PG
Length: 135 minutes
Grade: B+BCA=B+
Budget: $120 million
Box Office: $68 million ($38 US, $30 Intl)

Written and Directed by: Andy and Larry Wachowski, who made all three Matrix movies and V for Vendetta.
Starring: Emile Hirsch, Nicholas Elia, Christina Ricci, John Goodman, Susan Sarandon, Matthew Fox, Scott Porter, Benno Furman, and Richard Roundtree.

Speed Racer has continued in the racing tradition of his family, even after the untimely death of his elder brother, Rex, who was heavily maligned by the press for his racing tactics. Speed is offered the chance of a lifetime to become a racer for the powerful Royalton Industries, but he soon discovers that giving up independence for a corporate sponsor is not the sweet deal he imagined.

Entertainment Value: B+
I really enjoyed this movie, which we saw as a double-header after Indiana Jones. As with any Wachowski brothers production, it’s hard to separate art impact from story and acting because the visual effects are so amazing, but this movie still had good acting and a compelling plot, not because it was believable but because it was exactly as over-the-top hyperbolic as a live-action adaptation of a Japanese anime series should be.

Superficial Content: B
Drugs/Alcohol B+, Sexuality B+, Violence B, Language B+, Illegality B
There is racing action and several crashes, including discussion of at least one death. There are some fights with guns and poisonings as well as a man having his finger implied to be chewed off by piranha. The language and sexuality are pretty tame. PG-5 or 6 is just right. Again, we let Spencer (4) watch this and never felt the need to cover his eyes, although he did fall asleep after half an hour, amazingly for a car racing movie.

Significant Content: C
Corporations are evil. Racing is fixed and managed by media and money interests. But virtuous people win in the end with a little help from their friends. Justice will prevail if only you’re willing to work for it long enough. Loyalty matters tremendously.

Artistic/Thought Value: A
I was constantly blown away by the visual effects in this movie, which are truly overwhelming. The overall style is quite unique, feeling a little like Pushing Daisies crossed with a cartoon and the Matrix, as you would expect given the directors. It’s not so much a thinker as a flat-out feast of hyper-stylized visual action sequences.

Discussion Questions:
~Are corporations as evil as this movie portrays? What are the benefits and disadvantages of having corporations?
~Are independents always virtuous just because they don’t go along with the big companies?
~If you follow professional racing, how much of this movie is applicable to that sport today?
~Do you think this movie is meant as a critique of any other industry, such as filmmaking itself? If so, does it’s release by Warner Brothers and production by Joel Silver seem at odds with this message? What about other professional sports such as baseball, football, basketball, and hockey?
~How important is winning? How important is competing fairly?
~Compare and contrast the lessons of this movie with those of the movie Cars.
~Do the good guys always win? How important is it to have movies where the good guys always win, even if they don’t in real life?
~“It doesn’t matter if racing changes, it only matters if we let racing change us, “says Racer X. What does this mean, and do you agree? Consider the applications to real world social issues, for instance. Is this a martial arts concept?
Overall Grade: B+
Okay, confession time. I never watched the original cartoon growing up, so everything I’ve said must be taken as a stand-alone commentary. For those of you who loved the cartoon, I just hope it lived up to your expectations as much as it enthralled me, who had never seen it before. That said, very entertaining and fun to watch.

No comments: