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Go Christina Ricci Go!

I rather like my XBox. Not only does it enable me to develop sciatica and convince me to take up drumming, it also keeps the front of my lounge warm, lets me discover the various UPS dropoff points in London when it breaks, and take pretty pictures of broken technology. However, on top of all of those wonderful things it also lets me download and watch movies in high def (ish. I wouldn’t call 720p proper high definition, but until I cave and buy a Bluray player [get thee behind me oh PS3, foul temptress that thou art] it’s the best I’m going to get). So far I haven’t taken much advantage of this ability, as the rental fees feel a little high for new releases (especially the high definition versions, which clock in at 600 Microsoft points – currently £5.10) and I’ve seen all the older movies that they both have available and that I’d be interested in. However, I felt I needed to use the high definition-ness of my TV a while back and watched Stardust, which while a pretty fun film didn’t really impress me in its use of the extra pixels. So, the video playing bit of software has been sitting unused on my lounge-front box of tricks until tonight, when I decided that I would give in yet again, although this time with a slightly more TV driving (no pun intended) piece of cinema – the Wachowski produced Speed Racer.

Now, I’ve heard of the cartoon of Speed Racer (which I keep typoing as Speed Raver, which is a very different concept) but I’m fairly certain it’s something that has entered my consciousness in more recent times, as the various dribs and drabs of unshared US to UK cultural reference have slowly leeched into my brain. In particular I think my first actual awareness came about after hearing the Presidents of the United States of America’s song “Mach 5“, referencing Speed’s car. However, From the moment the over the top Smarties-like colours of the film (we’re talking old-skool Smarties, not the new “healthy” ones. The ones that were coloured with crushed animals and industrial waste. The ones that made me the man I am today) I was hooked. Now, some would say that it was the combination of prescription medication and rather excellent coffee coursing through my veins that turned my normally cynical mind from its normal path of disrespectful film destruction, but I think that I’d disagree.

The film is as predictable as you would expect a toy endorsement friendly summer blockbuster to be and the main criticism I heard levelled at it stands – it’s almost two hours long and focuses a lot of that time on a discussion of the corruption of the racing industry and the dilution of sport as it becomes a business. That would not necessarily be a criticism, apart from the fact that it’s blatantly targetted at children of an age that take bright flashing colours and the flinging of poo as the heights of artistic endeavour (under 8s and me). It’s just a bit too much of the content of the film to be classed as “something for the adults” and I can imagine the average kid getting bored waiting for the next physically impossible, sideways drift heavy racing scene. However, as a film aimed at me – a cynical thirty and three quarters year old with a love of monkeys, poo flinging, bright colours, interesting film making and Christina Ricci – it worked excellently.

To talk of the plot would be spoilerish and unnecessary, so I’ll do it anyway – Speed Racer has a silly name and in “Mr Bun the Baker”-like nominative determinism likes driving racing cars. He gets embroiled in the politics of the racing industry, does a bunch of races and has to win a big race to save his family and save the world of motor racing from corruption. The End. On the way to the credits (during which a monkey drives a selection of vehicles – could this film be more aimed towards me? Note to self: obtain Every Which Way But Loose, we need some Clyde love) we get a few races (veering on the edge of not quite enough racing action), some exposition, flash backs, an interesting style of shooting (with lots of floating heads criss-crossing the screen…watch the trailer, you’ll see what I mean), Christina Ricci’s legs and a worryingly large amount of fun. There’s an obligatory annoying kid, there’s a slightly inept australian and the bad guys are all british, but the film is entirely aware of what it is and just gets on with it.

Anyways, it’s not a deep and meaningful film and it has a plot and “politics” that are shallow enough that it’s almost rude to refer to them as such, but at the same time probably has too much of both to appeal to the younger, less attentive members of the audience. However, if you want an excuse to sit in front of a TV screen and watch something fun and colourful there are many worse ways to spend an evening.

All in all, I think I summed it up in my tweeted 140 char review: Well that was actually totally marvellous. Thought I’d not like Speed Racer much, but now I feel the urge to go find and watch the cartoon.

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