I missed Speed Racer in theaters, and I wasn't in much of a hurry to see it anyway based on the reviews I read which called it "rock candy LSD without a soul" and "bright and shiny and as directionless as the recent career of Mike Myers."
But last night, I popped in the dvd and I found myself absolutely loving the heck out of Speed Racer. It probably helped that I was watching it with my seven-year old son, and his glee was apparent. Near the climax of the movie, I turned to him and said, "I think this movie is awesome," and his response was, "this movie is SO awesome." So I recommend abducting a seven-year old when you watch this thing [note: I do not recommend abducting a seven-year old]. But "awesome" is the right word. It's like a movie from the future sent back in a time bubble for our enjoyment today.
True, the plot is overly simplistic and the stock characters are exactly what you'd expect, but who cares? It's all about the visual energy and that stuff is magnificent. This is the best-looking film of the year, without a doubt.
I'm not a huge fan of CGI in general, and I loved how relatively smoothly it was incorporated into Iron Man and The Dark Knight, but Speed Racer embraces the artifice of CGI to such an enthusiastic degree that it doesn't matter what looks fake and what doesn't. The whole thing is an imaginary world where vikings drive badass racecars and sneaky bad guys launch cobras from their car-catapults. Those are actually plot points from the movie, and if you think that stuff sounds ridiculously stupid, then you won't like Speed Racer at all. If you think they sound ridiculously glorious, especially in 8-gigawatt Technicolor, then you will have as much fun watching it as I did.
Critics who have knocked Speed Racer have compared it to a video game. Well, I can understand that feeling, because that's exactly how Clone Wars felt, but Speed Racer isn't like a video game. It's a moving digital painting, vibrant and alive and full of joy. It's not one endlessly repetitive scene after another, with blinding colors for no reason. No, there's a deeply wonderful aesthetic at play here, and while it might be ADD-addled and frenetic, it's also thrilling.