Drop everything and see...

Drop everything and see...

Posted by Sean Stangland on Wed, 06/04/2008 - 16:54

..."Speed Racer," which has improbably vaulted ahead of "Cloverfield" and "Iron Man" on my list of the best movies of 2008. If you have any interest in this movie at all, you have to go see it now, since it's going to be disappearing from movie theaters this weekend. The bigger multiplexes, like the AMC 30s in South Barrington and Warrenville, will still have it, but good luck finding it any place that has 16 or fewer screens after tomorrow.

I understand why "Speed Racer" flopped, and why most movie critics panned it, but I also know that for a certain segment of the moviegoing population -- a segment that I'm a part of, apparently -- this adaptation of the cult Japanese animated series will be 135 minutes of campy, colorful bliss.

I'm guessing "Speed Racer" loses a lot of people in its first 20 minutes, a dizzying prologue that shifts between two time periods and thrusts us right into the film's super-frenetic visual style. Anyone who isn't familiar with time-trial "ghosts" from racing games like Mario Kart will probably have trouble following the very first race. Those in the know, however, will be delighted that the filmmakers went for such an audacious idea right at the top of the film.

Those filmmakers are the Wachowski brothers, and nothing in their filmography suggests they could pull off a hyper-caffeinated kiddie flick. After directing the ridiculous "Matrix" sequels, they took a backseat to assistant director James McTeigue for "V For Vendetta," which was one of 2006's finest films, and then played guns-for-hire, reshooting most of the Nicole Kidman disaster "The Invasion" (and taking no credit for it).

But hopefully moviegoers will eventually give them credit for what they have done here. The film that "Speed Racer" is most like is "Dick Tracy," Warren Beatty's criminally underrated comic strip adaptation that, like "Speed Racer," put its actors in an over-the-top, candy-colored world that is not to be taken seriously for one moment. Both movies sacrificed verisimilitude for style, and both succeed.

But wait a minute. Aren't you the guy who hated "Indiana Jones" partly because it looked like a cartoon with actors walking in front of it? Yes, that's me. But "Crystal Skull" fails because it doesn't rhyme with the visual vocabulary of the previous "Indiana Jones" films, and because it's not supposed to look like a cartoon. "Speed Racer" is the very definition of a live-action cartoon, and the movie would be a complete failure if it didn't serve that vision.

Man, I can't wait to see what this thing looks like in HD ...

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