Speed Racer isn’t a movie.
It’s more like getting buried alive under a mountain of neon-colored cotton candy.
I like it.
There. I said it.
Yes, I know Speed Racer gets a lot of hate. It’s an overblown, over produced, over-the-top, over colorful, utterly silly, hyperactive, non-stop assault on the senses, with a goofy, sweet, family-friendly simplistic good vs. evil plot that you can’t find outside of a children’s TV show.
I like it.
Speed Racer is probably the greatest guilty pleasure film ever made. It refuses to follow any of the normal cinematic editing rules, preferring weird montages of rotating heads; obvious wipe cuts of the sort which haven’t been seen since the thirties; multiple digital image layers like a TV news show; hyper colorful, digitally enhanced location shots; old black and white film used in deliberately anachronistic ways; children’s drawings animated and brought to life; and whatever other madness the Wachowskis felt like throwing into the mix.
I honestly have no idea how something this stupidly awesome ever got made. I mean, here’s a movie that cost $120 Million, and it features a cute kid playing pranks with the help of his Chimpanzee pal; Ninjas; cars doing Martial Arts moves; deadly Piranhas; bizarre Japanese kid’s cartoons; and even John Goodman (as Pop Racer) tossing Ninjas around with his Graeco-Roman Wrestling skills.
I mean, seriously, were there any adults involved in this production at all?
Look, I know the critics hated this one, that it flopped badly at the box office, and that the Studio lost $100 million on it. I know that. But that doesn’t change the fact that I just put this one in our DVD player and had my whole family on their feet and cheering as Speed passes his final opponent and roars across the finish line. It is that sort of strangely old-fashioned hero story, wrapped in this absurd, epilepsy-inducing, insanely edited and lethally colorful package, the kind of film which leaves you cheering — and laughing hysterically at how silly and stupid it is, like the ridiculous way the shields installed on the Mach 5’s hubcaps work in the big cross-country race, or the series of zebras on the walls of the big race which we instantly recognize as the sort of zoetrope drawings which appear to be running if you spin the drum at the right speed.
Or race past them fast enough.
Although one of my favorite moments will probably escape most viewers as it is both quick — and a touch subtle (a strange thing to find in a film which seems to lack anything remotely resembling subtlety). When the Mach 6 skids into the finish line, we get a quick glimpse of its underside, only it looks completely different from the previous glimpses we’ve had of it.
Instead, it is nearly flat, with a few molded-in features, and a big screw in the middle of the car…
Just like a Hot Wheels car.
The key here is to shut your brain off and just enjoy the film for what it is. Don’t keep reminding yourself of how silly and stupid it all is, just let yourself be a little kid again, bathed in the pale glow of the cathode ray tube, jumping up and down as Speed and his family triumph once again.
Just make sure you have plenty of neon colored popcorn.
And maybe a little cotton candy…