Converting a fondly remembered cartoon series into a prospective franchise, the Matrix masters, Larry and Andy Wachowski, have taken another step toward the total cyborganization of the cinema. Gaudier than a Hindu-temple roof, louder than the Las Vegas night, Speed Racer is a cathedral of glitz. The movie projects a Candy Land topography of lava-lamp skies and Hello Kitty clouds—part Middle Earth, part mental breakdown—using a beyond-Bollywood color scheme wherein telephones are blood orange, jet planes electric fuchsia, and ultra-turquoise is the new black. For me, this carousel, which clocks in at a leisurely 129 minutes, is more fun to describe than to ride. Speed Racer has a narrative at once simpleminded and senseless, albeit touchingly faithful to Tatsuo Yoshida's original cartoons. Here too, the eponymous hero (Emile Hirsch)—child of the auto-inventor Pops Racer (John Goodman, a man-mountain of goodwill) and Mom Racer (a self-Stepfordized Susan Sarandon)—is born to drive the family Mach 5. And drive Speed does. Like The Matrix, Speed Racer gives the not-unrealistic impression of taking place inside a computer. But love, hate, or ignore it, The Matrix proposed a social mythology. Speed Racer is simply a mishmash—the delusions minus the grandeur.
Matthew Fox wonders how he can drive his Speed car back to the island.
Opens at Metro and other theaters, Fri., May 9. Rated PG. 129 minutes.