Converting a fondly remembered cartoon series into a prospective franchise, the Matrix masters, Larry and Andy Wachowski, have taken another step toward the total cyborganization of the cinema. Gaudier than a Hindu-temple roof, louder than the Las Vegas night, Speed Racer is a cathedral of glitz. The movie projects a Candy Land topography of lava-lamp skies and Hello Kitty cloudspart Middle Earth, part mental breakdownusing a beyond-Bollywood color scheme wherein telephones are blood orange, jet planes electric fuchsia, and ultra-turquoise is the new black. For me, this carousel, which clocks in at a leisurely 135 minutes, is more fun to describe than to ride. Speed Racer has a narrative at once simpleminded and senseless, albeit touchingly faithful to Tatsuo Yoshidas original cartoons. Here too, the eponymous hero (Emile Hirsch)child of the auto-inventor Pops Racer (John Goodman, man-mountain of goodwill) and Mom Racer (self-Stepfordized Susan Sarandon)is born to drive the family Mach 5. And drive Speed does. Like The Matrix, Speed Racer gives the not-unrealistic impression of taking place inside a computer. But love, hate, or ignore it, The Matrix proposed a social mythology. Speed Racer is simply a mishmashthe delusions minus the grandeur.
May 12-22, 2008