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Wed May 7, 2008
Speed Racer: The Next Generation
A Fast Ride . . .
By John DeSando, WCBE's It's Movie Time
"Speed is scarcely the noblest virtue of graphic composition, but it has its curious rewards. There is a sense of getting somewhere fast, which satisfies a native American urge." James Thurber
Speed Racer is aptly titled: I could hardly tell who was winning or losing the races because the images were blindingly fast. They were so fast that I asked my literate, electronic savvy thirteen-year old friend, Anthony, if the images were just right for video-gaming young people: he said they gave him a headache. I rest my case.
Young Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) turns down a racing offer from the powerful and corrupt Royalton Industries to remain loyal to the family business of building racing cars. Through a complex set of circumstances that include the death of his racing older brother, Rex, Speed wants to compete in the Crucible, the cross-country rally that took his brother's life. Winning and losing races and exposing corruption form the rest of this story.
The spirit of good versus evil, characteristic of '60's Japanese anime from which this story derives, is preserved here, as well as the accent on theme peppered with moralizing: In this case being true to yourself and your family and fighting the good fight permeates almost every frame. Those frames bleed color as if from a child's hallucinatory palette, the most prominent being red, the traditional symbol of danger if not violence. The Matrix trilogy directors of Speed Racer, Andy and Larry Wachowski, owe something to Robert Rodriguez's Spy-Kids, if not just the expressionistic sets, multicolor backgrounds, and a highly-developed sense of family loyalty.
What Speed racer lacks in Matrix's dialogue and intricate themes it makes up in a hyper-cartoon ambience that promises all will be set right by the spectacular end. It's a fast ride that's exhilarating and disappointing in equal measure.
"Racing is everything. For my family, it isn't just a sport, it's way more important than that... it's like... a religion." Speed
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time, which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm and on demand anytime. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com