Speed Racer: The Next Generation: The Beginning (review)
Stop, Speed Racer, Stop
Hey, the oil is running out and gas is at four bucks a gallon, so of course we’re bombarded with naughty automotive porn like NASCAR, all those hussy drivers shamefully burning up the precious fluid and wantonly spewing hydrocarbons into the atmosphere — fuck conservation and fuck the environment, too, just ram it all with a big-ass phallic car. And now it’s the kiddies’ turn to get those last licks in on Mother Earth before the pumps run dry: Speed Racer is back! He’s in the movies, and he’s on TV again, too, in a new Nicktoons series called — are you ready for this? — Speed Racer: The Next Generation. Quelle originale.
The pilot, “The Beginning,” debuts on Nicktoons tomorrow night, or you can watch it on the just-released DVD. Picking right up from the Japanese anime of the 60s and 70s, it eschews the unintentional goofy charm of the original and instead goes right for the intentionally dumb, with a topping of ugly animation, half cheap-looking CGI and the other half cheap-looking hand-drawn. It’s the tale of Speed Racer Jr., who had no idea he was the secret son of Speed Racer until he showed up at the Racing Academy, where classes include “racing ethics” and “history of racing.” (Who says our children isn’t learning?) At the Academy he meets his brother, X, who knows he’s Speed Racer’s son — the lads are natural rivals, of course, Speed Jr. being a goody-two-shoes pain in the ass and X being a world-class jerk, and ably assisted in that by his bitchy girlfriend, Annalise. (Speed Jr. has a not-girlfriend in know-it-all Lucy, so it’s stereotypes all round.) But just wait till X figures out the real reason he should be pissed at his newfound brother: Speed Sr. obviously felt Speed Jr. needed to be protected from his enemies, which is why Jr. was raised anonymously in an orphanage, but that X could jolly well fend for himself. Gee, guess Dad loved Speed Jr. more, eh?
Enemies? Bien sur! Evil billionaire — is there any other kind? — Zile Zazic, who built the Racing Academy and also happens to be Annalise’s father, will be ruined, ruined, I tell you!, if Speed Sr.’s secret engineering plans for the Mach 6 engine, which Speed Jr. find hidden at the Academy, come to fruition, because the dang thing doesn’t need gas to run. (He actually rants: “If those infernal kids build that car it could topple my empire!” like he thinks he’s a Scooby-Doo baddie or something.) So maybe there is a sneaky environmental theme here after all…
Oh, but I’ll leave you to discover how it all turns out. Or not. There’s not much here for fans of the original, even if Peter Hernandez, who provided Speed’s voice back in the day, is here as the voice of Spritle, who’s still around from the old show, if quite a bit older. The monkey Chim Chim is back, too, but this time he’s a robot monkey. And that’s how sad this new Speed Racer is: he’s not even a cool robot monkey. How do you mess up a robot monkey?