Tuesday 18th January 2022

Speed Racer (PG)
Directed by: Andy and Larry Wachowski
Reviewed by: Paul Fonz
Speed was unperturbed by his new sponsorship deal with "Evil McDonalds"
Speed was unperturbed by his new sponsorship deal with "Evil McDonalds"

I am sure some people will never be able to forgive the Wachowski brothers for ruining The Matrix trilogy by making two substandard sequels. Personally, I choose to forget that those two films were ever made, but it seems that if the Wachowskis were hoping to atone for their cinematic sins with the release of Speed Racer, then they're in for a disappointment.

For those of you who weren't growing up in America in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Speed Racer was a Japanese animé series that was dubbed for the US audience and went on to become a big hit. The story follows a kid, who is actually called "Speed Racer", and the rest of the Racer family, as they compete in some "Whacky Races" style events and also try to overthrow some evil, monopolising corporate sponsors.

It's an unusual property to try to bring to the big screen, and a big risk to invest $100 million in. But Warner Bros. have taken that risk, and the Wachowskis have used the cash to produce some awesome computer generated effects and to acquire a great cast. Emile Hirsch plays young Speed, John Goodman and Susan Sarandon play his parents and Christina Ricci plays Speed's girlfriend, Trixie. The most interesting character, the mysteriously named Racer X, is played by Matthew Fox (TV's Lost), but unfortunately none of these fine actors is really given much material to work with, so their talent is largely wasted.

The effects do look outstanding, and despite a slow start, I did find I really got into the film after the first forty five minutes, and was genuinely gripped during the extensive race sequences. It's an excellent example of translating a quirky cartoon into a live action film, and still preserving its atmosphere and style.

The trouble is, this film probably only instantly appeals to people who aren't grown up and watched the cartoon forty years ago. That must be a very small group of people. Instead the Wachowskis are attempting to capture a new audience of, I would guess, seven to ten year olds, but I am not convinced the film has enough draw to make any kind of profit. If your kid is into racing and cars, then by all means watch this film – it's entertaining enough – but otherwise I think most people are outside the target audience.

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Length: 135 minutes
Certificate: PG
Official Site:
IMDB Link:
Release Date: 9th May 2008

Top Five Rating: 60.0%60.0%60.0%60.0%60.0%60.0%60.0%60.0%60.0%60.0% (60.0%)
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