Before I went to see “Speed Racer” I asked my 7-year-old son if he would like to come with.
My son’s response was quite emphatic.
“No way. ‘Speed Racer’ stinks,” he said.
Boy, was my son right.
The latest film from Andy and Larry Wachowski (creators of “The Matrix”) is a misstep of epic proportions - an overbearing mix of candy-coated visuals and an incoherent plot. It’s the kind of self-absorbed mess that makes you question the sanity of the people involved in the project. Surely, they didn’t think they were actually making a good movie?
Based on the cult classic animated series, the story follows Speed (Emile Hirsch), a young man who has dreamed of being part of the Racer family business for as long as he can remember.
Speed has followed in the footsteps of his older brother, driving cars for the family business, and has had budding success.
His driving skills are noticed by the head of Royalton Industries (Roger Allam), who makes Speed a lucrative offer. Speed declines and in the process uncovers a deep dark secret - that some of the sport’s biggest events are fixed. With his racing career in jeopardy, Speed sets out to save the family business and the sport he loves.
“Speed Racer” has a unique look with a live-action comic book feel reminiscent of the Warren Beatty film, “Dick Tracy.”
But even those visuals grow tiresome during a 135-minute running time where the Wachowskis continue to pound their audience into submission with herky-jerky editing and an utterly incomprehensible story line.
It’s a shame, too, because the cast is full of capable actors. Susan Sarandon, Christina Ricci, John Goodman and even Hirsch have all shown ability in other films, but they are stuck with a screenplay that tries to play to the 5-and-under crowd, while amping up the visuals to keep the interest of everyone else.
It’s a gamble that doesn’t pay off, making “Speed Racer” a summer film that will quickly be forgotten - until the end of the year, when it makes its way onto the list of the worst films of 2008.
DVD dandy of the week
This week’s dandy is “Mad Money” (B-), a pleasant surprise that takes a simple (and rather cliched) premise and milks it for every ounce of entertainment possible.
Diane Keaton stars as Bridget, a wealthy Midwestern wife who is shocked to learn her husband Don (Ted Danson) has been fired from his job of 30 years.
Bridget has trouble adjusting to her new financial situation and eventually gets a job as a janitor at the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City.
It doesn’t take long for Bridget to hatch a plan to make a little extra money on the side - a plan that involves smuggling soon-to-be-destroyed currency out of the Reserve.
Bridget enlists the help of a couple of co-workers, single mom Nina (Queen Latifah) and free-spirited Jackie (Katie Holmes), to pull off the plan and soon the trio finds themselves swimming in more money than they know what to do with.
“Mad Money” doesn’t really veer too far from the traditional caper genre, but the film works in the capable hands of director Callie Khouri - who wrote “Thelma and Louise” and “Something to Talk About.”
Keaton is very good, gleefully giving everything she’s got into a role where you can’t decide if the character is that smart or just insane and lucky.
Holmes is also very good, almost making you forget she is now more famous for her off screen activities as Mrs. Tom Cruise, while Latifah is her usual reliable self.
“Mad Money” isn’t going to give audiences anything unexpected, but the familiarity proves to be a good thing here - with a film that is just enjoyable enough to make it worth your while for anyone in search of a midweek rental.
“Mad Money” is rated PG-13 for sexual material, language and brief drug references and is now available on DVD.
— Sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton, who’s getting a bit tired of all these retro-remakes and comic-book comebacks, can be reached by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.