Speed Racer

Speed Racer ★★★½

I’ve got to give it to this one for committing so wholeheartedly to its totally bananas production design. The visual garishness of this is simply off the charts, to the point that I struggled to get on board with it initially; but no matter how much of an eyesore it is at times, it’s hard not to admire its boldness. Set in some weird, hyper-colourised future, that appears to be occupied purely by Yanks, Aussies, and Cockneys (with a handful of Japanese characters thrown in for a little diversity) this bonkers mashup of high-octane races and comically-camp punch ups is a hugely entertaining, if occasionally quite nauseating, all-out assault on the senses. The Wachowski’s clearly wanted to pay homage to the film’s manga/anime roots, and it’s hard to imagine a live-action film more accurately or cleverly convincing its audience that it is a Japanese animation brought to life. This felt like I was watching an episode of Wacky Races mashed together with the sets and lurid visuals of Icelandic children’s tv series, Lazy Town (an absolutely insane and visually unique creation that left an indelible mark on my school-age self).

There are limits to the storytelling here—it is, after all, a family film that aims for universal appeal—and while the storyline is far from original, or anything but predictable, it’s undeniably very entertaining. There is so much energy in this, it will without a doubt appeal to kids the most, but there is enough humour in the performances and dialogue to provide something for older viewers too. The standouts in the cast for me are Roger Allam, who plays the corrupt and scurrilous villain, Arnold Royalton, and Christina Ricci, who knows precisely what film she’s in and has an absolute whale of a time with her role.

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