DVD Review: SPEED RACER
Warner Bros’ live action big screen version of SPEED RACER was the first major flop of the 2008 summer season. Produced at a budget of approximately $120 million, the film earned less than $43 million at the US box office. It was savaged by critics and ignored by moviegoers, which is a shame since it was actually a pretty good film.
While no one would confuse SPEED RACER as a masterpiece of cinema, what it is is a fun and faithful adaptation of the classic 1967 animated series. The film is true to its source material (particularly the Americanized version syndicated to stations all across the US) which is a treat considering the long history of butchered comic, cartoon, and TV properties. And if one can get past the over-the-top visuals— which do work in the context of the film— they will find a surprisingly touching story. While most audiences ignored SPEED RACER, those who have seen it have given the film fairly high marks… it earned a 77% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a B- average at Yahoo Movies.
Now that SPEED RACER is available on DVD and Blu-ray it has a chance of reaching a wider audience. Warner Bros’ DVD presents the film in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality is excellent, presenting the candy-colored CG world with stunning clarity. Audio options are Dolby Digital 5.1 English, French and Spanish with matching subtitles. The soundtrack is also top-notch, particularly during the film’s many racing sequences.
Bonus features are fairly light and are geared towards children. The featurette “Spritle in the Big Leagues” (running time: 14:32), actor Paulie Litt visits the various production departments of SPEED RACER to give viewers as look at costuming, green screen filming, stuntwork, the art department, the chimpanzees playing Chin-Chim, and more. “Speed Racer: Supercharged” (running time: 15:38) is a detailed look at the various racecars and manufacturers in the world of Speed Racer.
Unfortunately there are no trailers for SPEED RACER, but the DVD does include promos for FRED CLAUS, ANOTHER CINDERELLA STORY, BEETLEJUICE: 20TH ANNIVERSARY DELUXE EDITION, and SPEED RACER: THE VIDEOGAME.
The SPEED RACER DVD does not come close the level of material on the recent IRON MAN: 2-DISC ULTIMATE EDITION sets, but it does showcase the film in a top quality presentation with some nice kid-friendly extras. Give the DVD and movie a chance… you might just be pleasantly surprised.
For more information on both the original SPEED RACER and the new Warner Brothers’ motion picture please see the earlier coverage here on SciFi Japan:
- Here He Comes! Here Comes SPEED RACER!
- Part 1: Go Speed Go! A Series Overview
- Part 2: Racers Start Your Engines! How it All Began
- Part 3: Speed Racer is Born! MACH GO GO GO Comes to the U.S.
- SPEED RACER Production Notes
- SPEED RACER: Interview with Rain
- First 7 Minutes of SPEED RACER
- Part 4: The Aftermath of Speed: Remakes and Sequels
- Part 5: Speed Racer Now!
- RETROSPECTIVE AND REVIEW: SPEED METAL
- SPEED RACER Coming to Blu-ray and DVD
- SPEED RACER DVD and Blu-ray Cover Art