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Speed Racer


Stars: Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci, John Goodman, Susan Sarandon, Matthew Fox, Roger Allam, Richard Roundtree

Director: Andy & Larry Wachowski

Remember the old Disney film Tron, in which computer whiz Jeff Bridges got trapped inside a video game? That's just how you'll feel as you hurtle from one highly-coloured crisis to another in this frenziedly-edited junior-league adventure from the Wachowski brothers, who gave us the Matrix trilogy.

Cannonball Run-type movies never were my bag, in spite of a lifelong addiction to Formula 1, but boys from eight to 15 should get a real bang out of this one. And it'll keep them away from Grand Theft Auto for a couple of hours.

A grand theft auto of a different kind is being planned here by snarling Allam, boss of Royalton Industries, who has his eye on young race ace Speed Racer (Hirsch) - with a name like that it's just as well he's car crazy - whose adored brother Rex (geddit?) has perished in a high-speed accident. Speed, however, prefers to keep driving for the family (Goodman, Sarandon) firm, which puts him on a collision (oops) course with the mighty Allam.

But he needs to win a demanding cross-country rally called The Crucible to keep the Racer name alive.

Special effects here are pretty fantastic, but at the same time seem to be on automatic pilot, so that the action scenes carry about as much sense of danger as a game on a pinball machine. And it's sad to see such actresses as Ricci and Sarandon grappling with characters as shallow as these. See it on an IMAX screen, though, and you will get the maximum impact from the full-throttle racing sequences.

David Quinlan

USA 2007. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Technicolor.
136 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 10 May 2008