Bright, camp and colourful, Speed Racer has a strong sense of style to its choreography. Its confidence is varied and entertaining, and it makes this adaptation of the Mach GoGoGo franchise an infectiously good film. Colour bounces around the screen, like The Cat in the Hat but filtered down into likeable, bitesize chunks. A kid with an obsessed passion is overwhelmed by the outside world and what Lilly and Lana Wachowski present is the imagination of a child developed on-screen. That is, at least, a formidable excuse for how awful the CGI can look at times. It is only in the real world that it looks horrendous. To look over that is necessary when engaging with the fast-paced hijinks of the imaginative Speed Racer.
As fast as this feature from the Wachowski’s may be, it is a little fast for its own good. Headache-inducing in the nicest possible way, the pace is a little fast and the camerawork a tad too blurry. Watch at risk of your eyesight. It is worth the gamble, though, for all the choppy and light storytelling and the environment of speedy racing and danger. Over-saturation is usually an issue, but the Wachowski’s use it as an intentional, eye-straining advantage. Strange ensembles gather to present the story of a dangerous racer who risks it all one too many times. The Wachowski’s do well to showcase the deficit of life in those risky moments, and it strengthens the core of Speed Racer. The dialogue helps too, surprisingly good for a film that looks like Bo Welch and Tim Burton planted spies everywhere.
John Goodman and Susan Sarandon are surprising inclusions here. It is not as if they are needed. Most of the action depends on flashbacks to a time when the eponymous character was sticking around and looking out for his younger brother. The changes made to the original story and structure of the series may set the fans ablaze with controversy, but it makes no real difference for Speed Racer when considering it as a completely isolated piece. The indifference there is charming but the dialogue is not. It is too shtick-induced, too dramatic, for any of it to really work. An overreliance on that and the drama-heavy, tongue-in-cheek tone is fine but does become tiring after a time. That Spy Kids scope and flair is condensed into something a bit more likeable, and most of it is because of how genuine and bizarre the film can be.
Flashy colours and slick camera movements are the centrepieces of this cartoon adaptation. All of it combines to make for some entertaining visuals, interesting and unique characters and successfully realised dramatics. Its tone and style are akin to Wacky Races but without a dastardly dog and his owner terrorising other racers. Instead, they destroy one another in antics that look like cheap video games. Speed Racer is far more effective than it should be. It would be a live-action Redline had Redline been better or interesting. But that is neither here nor there, Speed Racer is a fast-paced burning of rubber that finds its footing rather quickly and sticks with a flair and style far away from the classic Wachowski’s notion. They adapt to the new league of working well, and it makes Speed Racer that much more interesting.