SPEED RACER (Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski). 135 minutes. Opens Friday (May 9). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NN
I'll say this much for the Wachowski brothers' big-screen, big-budget, big-everything adaptation of Speed Racer: it's the most convincing live-action cartoon I've ever seen.
Unfortunately, watching it is like having someone vomit a bellyful of Skittles at you for two and a quarter hours, and only slightly more entertaining.
I wanted to like it. I'm the guy who likes the Matrix sequels, for crying out loud. I went in genuinely hoping that the Wachowskis had turned the beloved (if creaky) Japanimation series into the visual extravaganza promised by the trailers.
They mostly have, at least in the technical sense. The whole movie pops with digitally enhanced vivacity, and the characters and their state-of-the-next-art vehicles move through their green-screen universe as though the laws of physics have been temporarily repealed. And the colours! Oh, the colours!
See, anything is possible now. If it can be storyboarded, it can be put on screen. But with unlimited creative power comes great responsibility to entertain, and that's where the Wachowskis jump the track. There's no joy in any of Speed's victories, or in Emile Hirsch's jutted-jaw performance – just a lot of visual noise as the (virtual) camera swirls through one CG wondershow after another at dizzying, coherence-dissolving speed.
The rest of the cast is similarly single-note, with the surprising exception of Lost's Matthew Fox, who turns the preposterously poker-faced Racer X into the closest thing the movie has to a playful wink. But he only gets away with it because no one is paying attention to the humans.