What were they thinking at Warner Brothers? Take a 1960’s Japanese cult cartoon, lavish it with a huge budget and pray that it will find an audience. The result: a film that one Toronto reviewer proclaimed, “is like having someone vomit a bellyful of skittles at you for two and a half hours, and only slightly more entertaining.”
Just who did Warner Brothers think would want to see this mess anyway? It’s not like they weren’t warned – they must have seen the Wachowski’s MATRIX sequels?
SPEED RACER has the distinction of being the first major league critical (and likely) box office disaster of the summer movie season. It is completely incoherent, like an over amped version of Joel Schumacher’s Batman films, where the action is almost impossible to follow and just tries to pound you into submission. The only redeeming thing about this film is that it has a good cast. Too bad they didn’t have something to do.
The reviewers have unfortunately used up most of the racing metaphors – “the wheels come off”, “hits the wall”, “in the slow lane” – so I will just end with a suggestion, go see IRON MAN again this weekend and steer clear of any theater playing SPEED RACER.
Life is too short.
New York magazine’s David Edelstein also disliked the film :
The film is like a nightmare in which you’re trapped in an arcade with screens on all sides and no eyelids. Based on an elemental but happily streamlined Japanese cartoon (an animeprecursor), it’s an eyesore, a shambles, with incoherent action and ear-buckling dialogue. The colors flatten everything: The cars and costumes look like they’ve been filled in with crayons—and not from the big 64-box but the dinky eight-pack. The plot is relatively intricate, which means the Wachowskis leap back and forth between hyperspeedy races and static scenes in which marooned actors labor to find a style as campy as the décor.
In The Matrix, the Wachowskis and their computer-effects whiz John Gaeta gave us the gold standard of universe-as-simulacrum movies. But here, as in the lumbering Matrix sequels, the giddiness is gone: “Free your mind” has been replaced with “Overwork your programmers.” They’ve become fussy and solemn—Lucasoids.
In Variety, Todd McCarthy was slightly more complimentary, though only to the extent of believing the film would appeal to children:
In its thinly developed narrative, dully functional dialogue, paramount devotion to family cohesion and somewhat cheesy, albeit expensive, CGI-against-greenscreen look, “Speed Racer” reminds one of nothing so much as Robert Rodriguez’s “Spy Kids” movies. Like them, the new pic is tolerable fun for the easy to please, but completely silly if held up to any scrutiny. It also remains mystifying why producers currently believe it’s a good idea for moppet-aimed movies to run well over two hours.