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May 12, 2008 - Image 12

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2008-05-12

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Monday, May 12, 2008
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

From page 11
On a standard-size movie
screen the rush of an intense 600
mph race down a roller coaster
track is quite literally enough to
take your breath away. I imag-
ine that you might actually die
attempting to watch this in an
IMAX theater.
The Wachowskis have laid
claim to the title of visual effects
pioneers since showing a man
dodging bullets nine years ago
in "The Matrix." With "Speed
Racer" they've created some-
thing so new and revolutionary
that experiencing it can be lik-
ened to audiences must have felt
seeing Dorothy stepping into
the Technicolor world of Oz.
Every element of the film jumps
off the screen, even though the
film isn't shot in 3-D. You'll see
colors you never even knew
existed. Among other dazzling
techniques, they've shot the film
so that the background and the
foreground are both in focus at
the same time, creating a car-
toon like effect that gives the
film the "pop" factor you'll notice
The storytelling is where
"Speed Racer" starts to sputter.
The plot is unnecessarily com-
plex for a "children's" movie. No
six-year-old I know can tell me
much about inflating stock pric-
es or multinational corporate
takeovers, but that doesn't stop
the Wachowskis from including
them. And yes, much like "The
Matrix" and "V for Vendetta,"
"Speed Racer" is a not-so-subtle
allegory about fighting the cor-
porate machine.
Speed (Emile Hirsch, "Into
the Wild") is an up-and-coming
race car driver from a long line of
car fanatics. After his brother
Rex Racer dies in an infamous
crash and falls into disrepute,
it's up to Speed to restore his
family's tarnished legacy. With
his father (John Goodman,
"The Flintstones"), his mother
and his quasi-girlfriend Trixie
(Christina Ricci, "Penelope")
backing him up, Speed turns
down a sponsorship contract
with evil tycoon Royalton (a
ham-tastic Roger Allam, "The
Queen") and soon finds himself
with a bounty on his head. He's
aided in his fight by the myste-
rious Racer X (a wooden Mat-
thew Fox, "Lost"), a man with
a deep, dark secret you might
figure out by saying his name
out loud a few times.
One character has been left

out of this laundry list: Speed's
younger brother Spritle (Pau-
lie Litt, "Jersey Girl"), who very
well may be the most annoying
and one-dimensional sidekick
since Jar Jar Binks. Paired with
a monkey named Chim-chim
(because monkeys are always
hilarious) he gives the kiddies
something to laugh at, but also
makes for some of the worst
moments of the film - mainly
because he consistently talks
like he's quoting catchphrases
from a '50s cereal commercial
("Holey moley!") and oftentimes
your instinct is to want to punch
him rather than chuckle.
The film's dialogue is down-
right laughable at times. Lines
like "It's the only thing I know
how to do and I gotta do some-
thing!" and "It's not about how
you change racing, it's about how
racing changes you!" pepper the
lulls in between auto-carnage
and fight scenes and cause more
eye rolls than inspiration. They
also stretch the film about half an
hour too long. Clocking in at two
hours and fifteen minutes, the
pulse-pounding synthetic colors
and sounds make "Speed Racer"
the most physically exhausting
movie since "Grindhouse."
So can awe-inducing visuals
overpower a lacking storyline?
In this case, yes - they're sim-
ply that spectacular. The "Mario
Kart"-on-acid races involving
dueling, weaponized cars on
spiraling tracks through moun-
tains, deserts and metropolises
are truly thrilling to watch, and
that's something that's hard to
say these days as zombie flicks
and superhero movies roll off
the assembly line like there's
some sort of quota to be met. It
definitely won't be for everyone,
but for those who can stomach it,
"Speed Racer" is a hell of a ride.

From page 9
It's ironic, then, that the main
problem with the film lies in the
otherwise impeccable script.
Mamet, of course, is first and fore-
most a writer, and he relies heavily
on what is perhaps the most com-
mon of all literary indulgences:
excessive symbolism. Even the
supporting characters are outright
symbols, like the jittery attorney
(Emily Mortimer, "Match Point")
who's given a chance to redeem
Performances lift
otherwise mundane
"What Happens in Vegas"
20th Century Fox
For most films, "it's not that bad"
can't really beconsidered a posi-
tive review. But for "What Hap-
pens in Vegas" - the ostensibly
doomed Cameron Diaz/Ashton
Kutcher rom-coin - it's actually
an accomplishment. Despite its -
insipid premise and often-lazy
execution, the film certainly has
its moments and, thanks in no
small part to several memorable
comedic performances, man-
* a,:.,'
Proton 'Y Gamma Ray
| Nouton Yv ainn

herself by standing up to the bad
guys. ;i
Worst of all is the character of
Mike Terry. Though convincingly
portrayed by Ejiofor, you get the
sense that he could've been played
by anyone and it wouldn't have
made a difference. Terry is simply
too good, too righteous and one-
dimensional, to really earn our
sympathy. He's the ultimate hero:
an intelligent, kind-hearted hus-
band who goes out on a limb to help
friends and strangers alike, and
refuses to use his incredible fight-
ing skills unless he's left with no

choice. Men like this don't exist,
and it lessens the overall power
of the film. Any seasoned movie-
watcher will know nothing bad
will happen to Terry, that no mat-
ter how many awful things Mamet
throws his way he'll always come
out on top. To leave Terry defeated
would completely unravel the cen-
tral thread of the film.
For this reason alone, "Redbelt"
fails to resonate after the end cred-
its have rolled. It's a powerful view-
ingexperience,but, aswitheventhe
bestofgourmetdishes, it'sforgotten
almost as soon as it's finished.



ages to rise beyond understandably
low expectations.
The stale plotline - two very
different people at rough patches
in their lives meet while blowing
off steam in Las Vegas, party hard,
get married and win a jackpot that
they must remain married to claim
- reeks of a bad movie Hollywood
learned to stop making around
1995. But there are some diamonds
in the rough. Diaz and Kutcher,
even while playing the two most
abhorrent people you'll ever see,
are oddly likable and understand-
able. Rob Corddry (TV's "The Daily
Show") steals many scenes as the

paranoid best friend/lawyer of
Kutcher's character, as does his foil
Lake Bell (TV's "Boston Legal"),
who plays the amazingly sarcastic
best friend of Diaz's character.
With jokes that work surprising-
ly well and a fitting, if entirely pre-
dictable, third act, "Vegas" floats
for the most part - and that's quite
an accomplishment considering all
the things pulling it down.
at michigandaily.com


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