Speed Racer” is an overlong Technicolor marvel with the body of a Ferrari and the engine of an Edsel.
For a film about fast cars, it manages to take audiences on a tedious trip through terrain that is visually arresting, but gumdrop sweet.
Based on the 1960s Japanese anime cartoon, the live action version comes by way of writers/directors Andy and Larry Wachowski, the brothers behind “The Matrix” trilogy.
Don’t expect anything as seminal in the duo’s latest offering.
We begin with young Speed Racer, a sparkplug of a lad who is more interested in racing cars than reading books.
He idolizes his older brother Rex (Scott Porter), a racing star who dies under suspicious circumstances.
Speed (Emile Hirsch) honors his bro’s memory, and becomes accomplished himself.
He is soon wooed by Royalton (Roger Allam), the billionaire behind corrupt corporate conglomerate Royalton Industries.
Untold fame and fortune are assured, but Speed demurs.
Royalton doesn’t take rejection well, and threatens to destroy Speed’s family, who make their own racecars and manage his career.
But Mom (Susan Sarandon), Pops John Goodman, girlfriend Trixie (Christina Ricci), Racer X (Matthew Fox), and others—including a pet monkey called Chim Chim—are game. Royalton’s goons don’t stand a chance against this pit crew.
The cast and the predictable story are largely secondary to the neon palette of effects, best when first introduced. Even so, sappy interludes abound, grinding any momentum to a halt.
As the plot awkwardly advances, character development is cast curbside.
Still, Hirsch is credible as Speed, and Porter shows some chops as Rex, albeit briefly.
But Ricci is wasted here, more a doe-eyed prop than a co-star, a shame for such a talent.
Sporting a ridiculous handlebar moustache, Goodman huffs and puffs through his lines, channeling his sanctimonious Dad days in “Roseanne.”
Pops belts out chestnuts like this: “You think you can drive a car and change the world? It doesn’t work like that!”
While the frenetic veneer of the cartoon is preserved, “Speed Racer” has too much junk in its trunk.
Speed Racer. Rated PG for sequences of action, some violence and language. Running time: 135 minutes. With Emile Hirsch, John Goodman, Susan Sarandon, Matthew Fox, Christina Ricci, Scott Porter, Paulie Litt, and Roger Allam.