I am sitting here, telling any lover of art, film, or storytelling, if you do not see Speed Racer--the energetic masterpiece orchestrated by the endlessly weird Wachowski siblings--you are not a complete being.
The film is being panned by critics all across the nation, which is so bewildering. Snobby critics usually love self-consciously artistic films (No Country for Old Men, Juno), but I have to be honest here: the critics have simply got it wrong with Speed Racer. My instincts are telling me the film is simply too wild for the aged Times critics, but not all film critics are Roger Ebert (in other words...old). So perhaps it's simply a film that you either "get" or you don't.
But, throughout history, isn't media that is the most divisive always the most powerful?
Whatever the case, Speed Racer is one of the best movies I've seen in months. The kitschy characters, literally stunning imagery, and The Matrix-esque live action scenes add up to a fitting summer film in a summer all but devoid of anything nearing original.
The dialogue between the actors is perfectly trite: "Racing, speed...what you do is art," Mama Racer tells Speed in one of the more touching scenes. In fact, Mama Racer's part (played by Susan Sarandon) is the only casting choice I disagree with. Sarandon just can't play down-to-earth cornball. Her arrogance can almost be seen floating in vapors above Mama Racer's 50's-style beehive.
The rest of the cast is near-perfect for what Speed Racer aspires to be. Emile Hirshe captures the heartthrob demeanor of the animated Speed character and translates it into an energy that is infectious: a heroic energy, even. Christina Ricci, playing a line between dirty vixen and schoolgirl eerily well, traps the audience in the bubble of her perfectly round eyes and instantly transmits the anime-vibe the Wachowski's were obviously gunning for.
Surprisingly, the young Paulie Litt (the character of Speed's younger brother, Spritle) nearly steals the entire show. He is charming, and never overacts (a trait many child actors, sadly, do not possess). Even Chimp-Chimp, his pet monkey, is a blast to watch on-screen.
Honestly, though, go see this movie for what the Wachowski's have done. The film is so vibrant you can see the colors pulsing like the aortic valve of a living rainbow. (Yes, I just wrote that.) The visual effects, when not jaw-droppingly gorgeous, still maintain a level of artistry that will carry on when bigger, better graphics are integrated in the coming years. And, as a modest filmmaker myself (not to mention a rabid moviegoer), I can testify that the editing and cinematography is some of the best I've ever seen. Even the score is top-notch. Right now, stop reading this and download the over-caffeinated theme song "Go Speed Racer Go" by Ali Dee and the Deekompressors. Do it. Now. I promise, it will keep you up for hours (in a great way).
You must see Speed Racer. Sure, if you don't, I'll be part of a small, lucky group of people who got to experience one of the best films of 2008 (how special!)--but I'd rather this film go big. Hayao Miyazaki would, too.