So, finding myself with a freed-up late-afternoon yesterday, I decided to go see a movie. Though Speed Racer was singing to me with the siren call of the explodo, I was determined to see a "good movie" and looked at David Mamet’s* kung-fu flick Redbelt as a good opportunity. Well, after reading Kevin Church’s lukewarm review of Redbelt and two trusted reviewers' raves about Herr Racer, I decided that I could take a chance on the Wachowski Brothers (er…whatever they are now).
WARNING: Speed Racer contains the following: Jumping cars, exploding cars, racecar vikings, ninjas, John Goodman, John Goodman fighting ninjas, Shaft, a character named Inspector Detector, kung-fu, British gangsters, a distinct lack of physical laws, a car-mounted catapult that fires beehives, piranhas, a chimpanzee wearing a tuxedo, and candy…Dear God the candy. If any of the above sound too absurd for you to suspend your disbelief, well, stay home and watch some Bergman. For the rest of you, buckle up.
I’ll say it first off, this is not a great movie, or really a movie at all. It’s a spectacle, the colors, the quick cuts, the sheer insanity of many of the visuals that borders on the incoherent. At times I had to remind myself to blink because I could feel my contacts drying up on my eyes because I was staring so intently. 12 hours after walking out of the theater, I’m hard pressed to remember exactly all of what I saw, but I know it was cool. I realize that this sounds as if I’m damning it with faint praise, but this movie feels as if it was made for and by 12-year-olds. From the early, imaginary scenes featuring crayon-animated dream sequences, to the candy-coated visuals, to the use of the word “ass” as if it’s the most damning swear of them all, I can totally see kids across the nation watching this movie on HBO hundreds of times on the living room floor as their Mothers beg them to, for God’s sake, go outside and play. It’s a next generation Karate Kid.
As for the visuals, the CGI doesn’t look quite real, but it’s not supposed to so it’s not jarring. Complaining that the racing scenes don’t look photo-real is like comparing Bugs Bunny to a real rabbit, sure they’re not the same, but Bugs is a hell of a lot more fun.
Yes, the “plot” scenes between races tend to drag a bit, but they’re still not bad, the actors do the best with what they’re given and the fact that they hired several very good actors attest to the fact that they were at least trying.
Overall, if you can put your brain into the right frame of mind for this flick, I have a feeling you’ll enjoy yourself immensely. If not, go see Made of Honor and suffer for your so-called maturity.
*Update: If you're still wondering whether this movie is for you, here are the first seven minutes:
Between this movie and the sheer enjoyability of Iron Man, I have a feeling this could be a very fun summer at the multiplex.
*Quick Mamet link, I was amused to see that the character Sparky was played by the same actor (the awesomely named Kick Gurry) that played the mercenary Jones in Mamet’s totally fantastic Spartan. A movie you should watch right now, if you haven’t seen it before.