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Monday, May 12, 2008

Speed Racer tanks as Chismillionaire suspected it would

HOLLYWOOD, California — No matter how you look at it, the pop-art experiment that is Speed Racer appears to have failed spectacularly. Narrowly avoiding a debut at No. 3 at the box office this weekend, the film hasn't enthused audiences or critics, and distributor Warner Bros. isn't happy.

Speed Racer is a big-budget remake of a late-'60s manga cartoon about a racing driver and his eccentric family, who battle evil corporate sponsors and their malicious minions. Using revolutionary new filming techniques, the co-directing Wachowski brothers (of bullet-timing Matrix fame) hoped young and old moviegoers alike would get excited about the eye-popping visuals and high-intensity action.

They didn't.

Despite a PG rating, the plot involving inflating stock prices and corporate takeovers soars largely over the heads of children. And older viewers seem to be less than enthralled by the constant barrage of synthetic color and sound.

The film cost $250 million to shoot and market but is expected to only take in a paltry $20.2 million this weekend, putting it far below the $50 million juggernaut of Iron Man and just a hair above the $20 million of Ashton Kutcher's What Happens in Vegas. Bloggers floated rumors that Warner Bros. spun the numbers to avoid the humiliation of admitting a debut in 3rd place. The studio denies any such meddling.

Speed Racer has been panned by critics as well. Only 35 percent of reviews on the populist critique site have been positive, and top critics like The New York Times' A.O. Scott had harsh words for young Speed and the Wachowskis: "This parable would be more compelling if Speed Racer were not so transparently trying to have it both ways, to be at once profoundly visionary and punchily commercial, and failing on both counts....Speed Racer goes nowhere, and you'd be amazed how long the trip can take." Ouch.


smr61754 May 12, 2008 at 3:29 PM  

As someone who grew up in the 60's and enjoyed the original Speed Racer, I was totally appalled when I saw the commercials and trailer for the movie. WTF were they THINKING??

When I heard a movie was in the works, I had hoped that 1. It would be made in the anime tradition and 2. It would concentrate on keeping the spirit of competitive racing along with a simple mystery aspect. No WONDER it tanked.

I have no intention of seeing it, either in the theater OR on DVD. Maybe a lesson has been learned on this one.