20 May, 2008

A Review By 'Geeks Of Doom'

Speed Racer
The Next Generation

Voice cast: Kurt Csolak, Peter Fernandez,
Robbie Sublett

Lionsgate
Released May 6, 2008


Hot on the heels of the recently released movie of the same name, this movie-length primer with the movie-length name Speed Racer the Next Generation: The Beginning cartoon is a breath of fresh air to any Speed Racer fan able to stomach a few upgrades here and there.

I was, of course, utterly skeptical (I even had my skeptical spectacles on!) when I got this DVD for I saw Speed (Jr. I guess - but I will get to that later) puff-chested and CGI-like on the cover and thought to myself “here we go, a sad rip off of the original and classic Speed Racer” (cue the theme music). But, to my surprise, I found the movie quite watcheable and a decent premise to a series that “promises” to be pretty decent.

Two things impressed me about Speed Racer the Next Generation: The Beginning (and for the benefit of all Geeks I am reducing that to Speed Racer TNG TB from now on). Firstly, there is a cunning transition between your usual Saturday morning 2D cartooning and the smooth — and obviously much more labor intensive — CGI-syled computer-generated motion graphics. I would love to explain this further, but I am sure a watch of the movie will explain it much better than I can. Cleverly, the creators of this series have woven in the ability to transport the actual vehicle races onto a “virtual race-track” giving them complete creative license to have Speed and his teammates/adversaries/robots race through anything from a Tron-like, space-age landscape to an ice world and back to a dessert and then back again. This concept I imagine will be the high point of all the following cartoons.

The second indent on my brain about Speed Racer TNG TB was the back story. Clearly we are talking about sacred ground here for many geeks and this was my main contention when I first saw the title. I was indeed ready to scoff at anything trying to re-hash such a classic.

How they managed to tackle this is quite cool.

The premise is thus: Years after the original Speed’s “disappearance,” a young and impressionable orphan named simply “Speed,” armed with nothing but a passion for racing, a red bandanna and a fancy looking key purportedly given to him by his father, arrives at the prestigious School for Racing run by Principal Spritle. (Ring any bells there? Yes indeed, Principal Spritle was the annoying little brat of a younger brother that was manically jumping up and down and hiding in the trunk of the original Speed Racer cartoon with that damn monkey!) Speed has to make an impression straight off and sets off making all sorts of waves whilst retaining his boyish and almost irritating niceness.

Enter X, the bad boy of the school and the best (as of yet) racer. X is Daddy Speed’s “recognized” son, pressure is on him from all angles to be “the next Speed,” and the friction between him and this new boy, called Speed (confused yet?) is another point of no doubt series’ long contentions.

But wait there’s more. There’s Zile Zazic, the Mega Corporation-owning racing fiend who enjoys nothing more than funding the Racing School and watching the goings on from various spy cams and his hot daughter Annalise, who attends the school and manages to create enough havoc to keep a series running by herself. Zile, a man with more Z’s than any other living evil mastermind in history, is bound to be the bain of Speed’s life as the series continues.

Of course the infamous monkey Chim Chim from the classic series has been upgraded by a robot version built by Conner, the new Speed’s roommate/comic relief, and ultimately his mechanic for…. well, it wouldn’t be right to tell you what sort of car the new Speed drove, would it?

Needless to say, the film sets up the series very well and even for I, Skeptical Spectacled Groovespook, found it quite entertaining and not at all the classic-killing show I thought it might have been.

Check it out!

The DVD is a lead in to the new animated half-hour TV series, which airs on Fridays at 7pm ET on Nicktoons Network.

Via Groovespook's article here.