Speed Racer creates a timeless, visually seductive world suspended somewhere between the pop '60s and the sci-fi future. Its biggest disappointment, strangely enough, is its raison d'être -- the races themselves.
This toxic admixture of computer-generated frenzy and live-action torpor succeeds in being, almost simultaneously, genuinely painful -- the esthetic equivalent of needles in eyeballs -- and weirdly benumbing, like eye candy laced with lidocaine.
More than the story of the Racer family, Speed Racer is the visual autobiography of the Wachowskis and their pit crew of computer-nerd Einsteins, using the tools of their trade to transform the movie medium.
The movie, unfortunately, doesn't make that leap from sensation to art, but it suggests fascinating possibilities for moviemakers interested in using the latest techniques seriously to explore the world -- the fairyland we have made with our technology.
It gave me a headache, a stomach ache and the less-defined unease that comes from witnessing a major change in the zeitgeist. Because the zeitgeist, judging from this movie, now embraces rattle-headed visual delirium at all costs.
At an exceedingly long 135 minutes, the film needs more than what might result from the explosion of a Crayola factory, and Speed Racer has nothing extra to offer -- no heart, no excitement, no moments to cherish.
Young boys are the only suitable audience for Speed Racer, and even they might feel an urge to squirm between the videogame-style, whizbang, jellybean-colored, CG-jiggered car races that are the adrenalized heart of this entertainment with no soul.