50DMC #22: A Movie Most Hated But I Loved

The 50 Day Movie Challenge asks one question every day, to be answered by a few paragraphs and a clip, if possible. Click here for the full list of questions.

Today’s prompt: What’s a movie that most fans and critics hated but you loved?

This is a little disingenuous, perhaps, because Speed Racer does have a good many supporters in the critical community, but it’s sitting at a squishy 38% on the Rotten Tomatoes meter, so I’m counting that as close enough to “hated” to work for this question. And there’s absolutely no doubt that I loved this film. It’s even sitting comfortably in my top ten for 2008. And the reason for that is because, quite simply, Speed Racer is the most immediately overwhelming visual experience I have ever had – I’m kicking myself that I didn’t see it in theatres, but when I got the blu-ray, I spent the full two and a quarter hours staring at the TV with my jaw dropped open.

The story itself is fairly simple and often simplistic, but it goes about even that basic kids-stuff story with a wide-eyed exuberance and joy that I rarely see from any films these days, let alone the children’s movie industry that has gotten too damn self-aware for its own good. The Wachowskis know exactly how standard this story is, but they allow it to go silly and campy and gloriously fun without ever resorting to irony or out of place juvenile humor. Because, really, the story of Speed Racer’s rise in the world of racing, his problematic relationship with his older brother, and his potential defection to a greedy racing conglomerate is all a McGuffin for the candy-colored world the characters inhabit. It’s somewhere on the cusp of live action and animation, and exactly where the line between the two is drawn is difficult to tell – and that’s precisely the point. This is the ultimate live action cartoon, and I mean that in a good way. Of all the movies I’ve seen in my life, Speed Racer is always my first thought when it comes to sheer visual overstimulation of the very best kind.

Here’s the first seven minutes, encompassing a bit of backstory and the first race. Even just watching this I get all wide-eyed and have a huge grin plastered on my face.