Toon Talk: Speed Racer
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by Kirby C. Holt
MPAA Rating: PG
From Popeye to George of the Jungle, many a cartoon has tried to make the transition from pen and ink to flesh and blood, but none so spectacularly as Speed Racer (in theaters now). Zooming onto the big screen with a mixture of pedal to the metal pyrotechnics and hyperactive visuals, this live action take on the old school anime series is all kinds of crazy cool fun.
Speed Racer began its pop culture life in the 1960s as a Japanese manga (comic) and animated television series called Mach GoGoGo. Created by anime pioneer Tatsuo Yoshida for Tatsunoko Productions, the show (inspired by such western influences as Elvis Presley and James Bond) was quickly picked up for American syndication and given its now familiar name and iconic theme song. Over the years, the original series became a touchstone for both Baby Boomers and Generation X-ers alike, so a full-fledged movie version was inevitable.
And it is finally here; after seeing the kaleidoscopic images that only today’s digital technology could create, you’ll be glad they waited. Helmed by the visionary minds behind The Matrix trilogy, Larry and Andy Wachowski, this Speed thrills, exploding off the starting line and never letting up, laws of physics and plot densities be damned.
Whether you are an avid follower of the Racer legacy or (like me) know the franchise mostly from the extremely simple yet highly infectious title song (“Go Speed Racer, go Speed Racer, go Speed Racer go!”) is of little consequence, as the Wachowski brothers offer a crash course from the moment the starter flag drops.
Speed Racer is a rising star of the racing world (played by Emile Hirsch, rising star of the film world), able to make his Mach 5 dream machine do amazing feats of automotive daring-do. This attracts the attention of a multimillionaire corporate sponsor, Royalton Industries, whose founder (Roger Allam) has found a way to maximize profits from the sport of automobile racing, mostly in not so legal ways. Out of loyalty to his family business, Speed rejects the lucrative offer, leading an enraged Royalton to vow to destroy Speed’s racing career … and ruin the good name of the Racer family.