Why I loved Speed Racer

As everyone who reads this blog probably knows, I've been looking forward to the Speed Racer movie for a while. About a month ago, I actually got a chance to see it. I should have posted this then, but I never got around to it. As usual, I'm behind the times. It's my way.

There's been a lot of bad press about the movie, so I wanted to join the growing chorus of people defending it.

I absolutely loved Speed Racer. Of course, I was a huge fan of the cartoon as a kid. I wanted to be Speed; I had a massive crush on Trixie; and I idolized Racer X. I even dressed up as Speed Racer on Halloween in my 20s. I was expecting a lot from the film, and was afraid I'd hate it. Especially when I started skimming the review. I almost didn't go see it. I'm glad I did because I really enjoyed it. Here's why:

  • It's pure eye candy, but you probably know this already. It's amazing is just how literally this is true. There is a fantastic scene that cuts from an bird's-eye view of a supersaturated metropolis to a drawer full of Technicolor candy (actually, it's more like Hypercolor).

  • The retro-futuristic feel is superb. The whole movie feels like a 1950s pulp science fiction version of today. The wallpaper and the Tiki bar in the Racer house were superb pieces of set design.

  • John Goodman. The casting in general was pretty good. For the most part everyone was perfectly suited for their roles, but Goodman was amazing as Pops. He pulled all the faces that Pops pulled in the original series. When he yelled at Spritle and Chim Chim, I got chills.

  • The film was true to the kookiness of the original series. I've talked about John Goodman making the crazy anime faces, but it didn't stop there. From the over the top fight sequences to a gun's muzzle jammed in a Sparky's nose, the whole thing really felt like Speed Racer. Spritle and Chim Chim's sugar-induced rampage was spot on.

  • The multilingual racing commentary. At some points in the film, this became a cacophony of unsubtitled voices competing for my attention. It felt a lot like the web.

  • The desert rally. I always loved the long multi-episode desert rally in the original series. It had all the best bits. From the previews of I had seen, I was afraid they'd spend all their time on the track, but a large part of the film was dangerous racing through desert and mountains

  • The phrase "cool beans" is used several times in the film.

  • The creative alternative swear words. This is, after all, still a kid's movie (probably part of the reason I loved it). "Tore him a new tailpipe," comes to mind as one of the best examples of this.

  • The steering wheel. This was another thing I loved in the original series. I think I actually knew what each of the buttons did. It only makes a brief appearance in the movie, but it was enough to make me happy.

More than anything, the film was great because it didn't take itself seriously. I think that people who weren't familiar with the original series went in expecting another Matrix or V for Vendetta. Speed Racer is definitely something entirely different, and I, for one, absolutely loved it.