The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Warner Bros. - 2008
MPAA Rating: PG
Feature running time: 135 Minutes
Genre: Action Adventure/Family
Disc Format: BD-25
Video Aspect: 2.4:1
Audio Format(s): English/French/Spanish/Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Starring: Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci, John Goodman, Susan Sarandon, Matthew Fox
Written & Directed by: Wachowski Brothers
Music by:Michael Giacchino
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: September 23, 2008
"Go Speed Racer ..!"
Start your engines and fasten your seatbelts for the high-octane adventure Speed Racer, combining heartfelt family humor and groundbreaking visual effects. Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) is a natural behind the wheel of his thunderous Mach 5. With support from Pops and Mom Racer (John Goodman and Susan Sarandon), girlfriend Trixie (Christina Ricci), younger brother Spritle (Paulie Litt) and the mysterious Racer X (Matthew Fox), Speed takes on fierce competitors to save his familys business and protect the sport he loves. When Speed steps onto the track, it’s not just a race. It’s an adrenaline-fueled, high-speed charge to the finish. Go, Speed Racer, go!!
I remember watching Speed Racer when I was little although I don’t remember much about the storylines. I do remember that Racer X was possibly his brother and the Mach 5 was THE coolest car. When this was released I saw the trailer and thought that I would check it out when it came to home video. I loved cartoons as a child and I think that I still do. Watching Speed Racer was an interesting experience. To me it was unlike anything else that I have seen. There have been plenty of real life characters made into cartoons/animated but we rarely get to see cartoon characters brought to life. This not only brought the characters to life but the freedom that animation has to create improbable situations/events. I thought that the lengths gone to by the Wachkowski Brothers to try and faithfully replicate the feel of the show was commendable. The story was simple yet there were aspects of it that would probably go over the heads of younger viewers. This of course is not a prerequisite to enjoyment of the movie because even if young audience members weren’t clear on what was happening they could enjoy the incredible special effects. My feeling is that Speer Racer is a film that is intended for both young and adult audiences. I think it leans more toward adults who were fans of the show who can appreciate its nostalgic expression. I think that at times it came across as somewhat outmoded and perhaps a little corny. I also think that this is where its charm lies. John Goodman was the perfect selection to play Pops. This is the second time he has portrayed a cartoon character brought to life (he played Fred Flintstone also). His larger than life persona and physical size make him a great fit. Susan Sarandon was fine as Mom Racer but I didn’t see where she brought anything special to the role. Hirsch, Ricci, and Fox appeared to try and embody the essence of Speed, Racer X and Trixie and I thought it was refreshing. I tried to take Speed Racer at face value rather than looking for it to be more than it is.
The rating is for sequences of action, some violence, language and brief smoking. This should be no problem for mature young viewers.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Speed Racer comes to Blu-ray Disc from Warner featuring 1080p VC-1 encoded video that has an average bitrate of 22 mbps and 640 kbps lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 channel audio.
This is a stylized video presentation that boasts a broad color palette that features beautifully lush pastels and vibrant hues that are vivid, bold and look incredible in high definition. The video has a wide dynamic range with deep, inky blacks and excellent shadow detail. The video had a consistently razor sharp quality that left images looking pristinely resolved with flawless rendering of fine detail. Other than John Goodman and Susan Sarandon, flesh tones had lifelike tonality with variable complexional characteristics among the varying skin types. There was an effect applied to Goodman and Sarandon to make them appear younger that gave their faces a waxy/smooth texture that was distracting. Later in the film as their characters aged it became less obvious but they still looked a bit odd. This is a reference quality video presentation that exhibits sparkling clarity, abundantly rich colors, and crisp three dimensional imagery that is breath taking.
Warner’s decision to use lossy Dolby Digital sound rather than higher resolution lossless audio has everyone scratching their heads. A new release film like Speed Racer is tailor made for it which left many feeling let down. I wouldn’t condemn the audio quality so quickly. After listening to the soundtrack I definitely missed the higher fidelity inherent with the better lossless audio encodings. Having said that I thought this was a decent and well balanced audio presentation that featured good dynamic impact and clarity. Dialogue and sound effects were clearly rendered through the front three channels. The mix was fairly aggressive during the various racing sequences as it utilized the entire system platform. The soundstage was open sounding with excellent atmospheric presence. The controlled feel of the race track versus the open aired cross country challenge was notable and sounded great as the sounds of colliding cars, helicopters, and explosions roared through the room. Low frequency effects delivered bass with good solidity, weight and demonstrative tactile presence.
The bonus supplements are more on the fun side and contain some features that young viewers should find appealing. The visual effects piece is quite interesting and is the best of the bunch. The included game feature comes on a separate DVD disc and is straight forward and easy to play. I was happy to see that Warner included a bonus disc Digital Copy version of the film for those who like to take their movies on the go.
- Speed Racer: Car Fu Cinema – A look at the visual/special effects used in the movie
- Spritle in the Big Leagues – Hosted by Paulie Litt as he tours the set and looks behind the scenes of Speed Racer
- Speed Racer: Supercharged – A short fictional feature on the cars and drivers of the World Racing League
- Speed Racer Crucible Challenge – DVD game
- Digital Copy: Bonus Disc – Provides a standard definition version of the film that can be downloaded to a portable playback device from a compatible PC
I thought that Speed Racer was a fun movie that had a nostalgic appeal (for me) as it brought these characters from a bygone era cartoon show to life. If kept in the proper perspective it can be enjoyable. Warner has brought it to Blu-ray Disc for a day and date release along with DVD. It features superlative video quality that enhances the experience with visually stunning high definition video. I would have preferred a lossless audio mix that might have been a better match with the video however I wasn’t disappointed with audio quality. The additional Blu-ray only bonus features are icing on the cake. I would recommend checking this out via rental before a purchase. Either way I expect you will be quite pleased with its technical qualities.
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