Most Underrated Movies: Sympathy for “Speed Racer”

0Everyone has those rainy day movies, the ones you pull out when it’s time to get cozy and think of nothing, but you still want to have a good time. I’ve reviewed quite a few underrated movies here and I think “Speed Racer” (the 2008 film), my rainy day movie, is definitely one of them.

So many! So many spit on this film as a lollipop-neon travesty with terrible acting and terrible CGI, but I beg to differ. I believe that “Speed Racer” is a lollipop-neon romp through your childhood imagination. It’s not meant to be taken so seriously, and feels like how you wanted races to be when you were younger. It’s not like Nascar or the Indy 500: as a child you wanted to see races that were on long, unbelievable tracks through wilderness, explosions, gadgets up the wazoo, and the Speed Racer cartoon had it all. But that’s all it was: a cartoon.

Thanks to the wonders of CGI and the crazy imagination of the Wachowskis, we were finally able to see the possibilities of fantasy racing, right on the big screen with live action characters. Our eight-year-old minds couldn’t take it. (At least that’s how I felt). The story itself is a tale of loyalty, whether it’s to a sport you love, family vs fame and fortune, and all the typical cliches in between. But let’s be real: the stars of this movie were the races and the world they were set in.

As you’d expect from a such a titled movie, there are races abound in this movie. But they’re not just tracks on land, oh no. These races defy gravity and ensnare the senses with colors and sounds. Not only were they a feast for the eyes, but they also actually have something to do with the plot. Shocking, isn’t it? Each race was a duel between good and evil, and they were so insane in terms of cars hopping over each other at ungodly speeds, that they blew your mind. You could just imagine Einstein and Isaac Newton spinning circles in their graves.

For me, the best part was the ending race, the big climactic finish. Throughout the last lap, Speed is recapping brief, impactful moments from the film in his mind, and it makes sense. It’s a moving montage, and you genuinely feel that all his struggles have led up to this moment. The Wachowskis lent both a nostalgic and exciting hand to this final duel between Speed Racer and Royalton Industries, and it plays on your emotions. From the whirling cars, to the screaming global announcers, and the wild crowd, it’s a fitting finish to a heart-stopping race.

This film struggled so hard when it was first released, but I’ve enjoyed watching the cult status it’s gained grow every year. In a time when nearly every action and superhero film is trying to out-grit or out-edge each other, it’s nice to come back to this childhood dream come to reality. It’s about family, it’s about devotion, it’s about colors and sights and sounds you wouldn’t believe. Even more, it’s about racing for the fun of it: not to make a profit or make a statement, but just for the shear fun of cars crashing, wheeling, diving, and doing all sorts of acrobatics. The races were wonderfully choreographed, the actors fit their roles perfectly, and it was an overall fantastic popcorn flick. As an adaptation of a cartoon, it’s exactly what you’d expect it to be, and doesn’t need to be anything more than that.

If you find that you love “Speed Racer” as well, I highly recommend a little-known, short-lived anime called “IGPX: Immortal Grand Prix”. It’s just as outrageous as “Speed Racer”, only the characters race in motorized mechas instead of regular race cars. Also they fight each other while racing at top speeds. It’s pretty intense.

Do you have an outrageous racing film you love to death, or want to share a rainy day movie you can’t live without? I want to know, so comment below!


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