I should’ve known that nothing good would come out of letting my shallow side get the best of me. Yes, ‘Speed Racer’ lead Emile Hirsch is one of the Sexiest Males Alive. Yes, when I applied the same reasoning to convince myself to see ‘Into The Wild‘, I got one of my best movie experiences this year. Thus, the prospect of watching him being his swoonworthy self for two hours, should be utterly painless, right?. Well, it wasn’t. Hirsch’s good looks cannot undo the fact that ‘Speed Racer’ is one of the worst movies of the year.
My main lapse of judgment probably occured already when I put this movie on my ‘maybe’ list. I noted the presence of Hirsch, and perceived the movie as some sort of car-racing action spectacle, directed by the Wachowski brothers, of ‘Matrix’ fame, no less. Had I taken the time to read up on the movie beforehand, I would quickly have realized that this was a kids flick, and then respectfully backed away. When I didn’t, I have no one to blame but myself.
In fact, Hirsch is the only pleasant thing ever to happen in this movie. The story of young Speed Racer (Hirsch, looking like a – smashing! – young Ray Liotta) fighting alongside his entreprenurial family to keep out of the hands of evil corporations and the keep the world safe for car racing, is terribly paced, visually repetitive and oddly humorless. Or, it doesn’t offer a single laugh to audience members over the age of seven. A badass chubby kid and his monkey throwing excrements at the bad guys, anyone?. The narration is awful at times, with characters flying across the screen, not-so-subtly highlighting what happens either off-screen or in their minds. Most of the time, ‘Speed Racer’ comes off as a Disney Channel movie on a seriously bloated budget.
It’s running time doesn’t help. 135 minutes feels like an eternity, and it runs out of ideas halfway through, only to embrace every little sentimental cliche in the book. The setup is extraordinarily slow, and the racing bit is not all that exciting (imagine a mix of Pod Racing and Pixar’s ‘Cars’), especially the second or third time around. Susan Sarandon and John Goodman do their best to save what can’t be saved, and end up annoying me with their wasted talent.
Since I knww about the movie’s critical pummeling, I probably should have kept to my first thought, and stayed with the photo stills.