Speed Racer



Action-packed kids' film fun, with a few sputters.
Popular with kids
  • Review Date: May 6, 2008
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 2008
  • Running Time: 129 minutes

What parents need to know

Educational value

Kids learn a bit about cars and the sport of car racing.

Positive messages

Some deception, violence, and betrayal -- but since this is a classic good-vs.-evil story, the bad guys get their comeuppance in the end. Parents and children are portrayed as having a fairly healthy, supportive relationship.

Positive role models

The central family sticks together and Speed has tons of support from his race-car builder dad, encouraging mother, feisty girlfriend , cheerleading brother (Paulie Litt), and the family's pet chimp. Racer X is an enigmatic driver who recruits Speed to fight for justice.

Violence & scariness

Plenty of fight scenes that mix kung-fu with regular brawling and gunplay. A gun is trained up a man's nose. Although there's not that much blood, there's lots of bone-crunching, head-banging, and the like (and the sound effects can be gruesome). Mob-like criminals threaten to throw one racer into a vat of piranhas after they beat him pretty brutally; later, a man's finger is eaten by the same fish (the tone of this scene could be scary for young kids). Car crashes aplenty, though no one is hurt badly.

Sexy stuff

A couple of kisses in the end. There are also some mild sexual innuendoes and some menacing suggestive comments about a young woman from a villain.


Mostly tame ("holy moly," "hubba hubba"), aside from a few uses of "ass," a "damn," and a bleeped-out "s--t." Brief rude finger gesture.


Some logos for Royalton Motors, cars, and cigars, but nothing excessive.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

One character smokes, and another is given a box of cigars.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Speed Racer is a fast-paced, visually kinetic car racing movie -- which is the first family-targeted movie from Matrix creators Larry and Andy Wachowski -- seems tailor-made for kids under 12 who've been raised on video games and anime adventures. The central family sticks together, which is nice to see, and there's hardly any swearing or sexual content. But some of the fairly frequent fight scenes are quite vicious, with tons of bone-crunching noises and other sounds (though there's not that much in the way of blood). One beating fairly early in the story is somewhat brutal (and includes the threat of a hand getting eaten by piranhas) and could upset young children. The basic good-vs.-evil story will entertain kids, but it may leave older teens and adults -- especially those who love the original '60s animated series -- indifferent.

What's the story?

Based on a 1960s Japanese cartoon of the same name, SPEED RACER stars Emile Hirsch as Speed, the 18-year-old middle son in a car racing family who has, as his name suggests, a gift for speed. But all is not fun and games: Speed's older brother appears to have died in a horrible accident that may have been engineered by an evil conglomerate -- which starts gunning for him after he turns down their offer of a lucrative contract so long as he races for them. Luckily, Speed has tons of support, including his race-car builder dad (John Goodman), encouraging mother (Susan Sarandon), feisty girlfriend (Christina Ricci), cheerleading brother (Paulie Litt), and the family's pet chimp. And then there's Racer X (Matthew Fox), an enigmatic driver who recruits Speed to fight for justice.

Is it any good?


It's not entirely clear why the Wachowski brothers -- the CGI geniuses behind the Matrix trilogy -- didn't make Speed Racer into an animated feature. The film certainly feels like it wants to be one. In the best sense, it has that hyperbolic feel of a Road Runner cartoon, all whiz-bang and excitement (though, that said, the first act is pretty slow). The race scenes look as if they're taking place inside a flashing pinball machine -- all the more appealing for young fans. But parents shouldn't worry: Except for a few salty words and some painful fight scenes, it's squeaky clean. Perhaps a little too squeaky clean, in fact, for Matrix fans looking for an edge. There isn't one (only the Mach 5's turns are sharp).

Speed Racer also suffers from some of the pitfalls of many animated adventures -- it's light on storytelling (the underlying theme about sports being too beholden to large corporations barely gets out of the gate) and burdened with earnest, snoozy dialogue. The actors have so little to do -- clearly, emphasis was placed on the special effects -- that the movie almost doesn't need its big-name stars. And the mightily stylized look goes into overdrive, potentially leaving older audiences with a migraine. Some may find themselves longing for a good, old-fashioned race, one that takes place on a real track, to give them some non-computer-generated excitement.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about whether Speed Racer feels more like a live-action film or a cartoon. Why? What do you think the filmmakers wanted watching it to feel like?é

  • If family members have seen the Matrix movies, you can talk about what they have in common with Speed Racer, if anything.

  • Families can also discuss how the movie portrays Speed's family. How does it compare to families in other movies?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:September 16, 2008
DVD release date:September 15, 2008
Cast:Christina Ricci, Emile Hirsch, Susan Sarandon
Directors:Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Studio:Warner Bros.
Topics:Cars and trucks, Sports and martial arts, Brothers and sisters, Misfits and underdogs
Run time:129 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:sequences of action, some violence, language and brief smoking.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent of a 4 and 6 year old Written byTraciCortez November 10, 2008

I am upset as to why there needs to be cussing through language and hand gesters

I am appalled at how they think there needs to be crude language in a movie made for kids!!! Every kid is wanting to see this movie and we cant let them watch it with out me right there with the clicker ready to mute or fast forward. The movie would have been just as successful without the little boy in the movie using his middle finger towards the bad guys as they zoom by. It wasn't necessary! So disappointing.
Adult Written bynduns January 14, 2011

After seeing this, I have a question...

No, it's not directed toward the director. No, this is directed to the anime fans and people who grew up with the show. I seriously have to question your way of thinking. It makes sense that you'd get PO'd when an adaptation of a cartoon isn't true to its source, but when it's 100% true to its source, like this movie is, and you still whine like little brats, I have to question your intelligence. Do you people even KNOW WHAT YOU WANT!!!!?? Seriously, not only is this 100% true to its source, it actually made the characters more interesting. Mom Racer actually DOES something in this movie! I'm starting to think anime fans see this and all other American adapations of anime the same way they look at English dubs (Including the good ones): they only hate it because it's American, not because it's actually bad. I wouldn't be surprised if half the people trashing this film didn't even see it and are basing their views off of mere assumption alone. As a movie in itself, it's not the best thing you'll ever see. The story has only a little more depth than a typical episode of the show, and I do like that. I like how unlike the show, it's not just characters racing for the sake of racing. There's actually a greater purpose behind it. Oh, and let us not forget how they snuck snippets from the original Japanese version of the opening into the end credits! I didn't think American anime adapations could do that. Still, while not a great film, it still receives major points for being the only anime adaptation that's 100% correct to its source.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Adult Written bygreymattre April 9, 2008

A pitiful waste of a good franchise

Does Hollywood want to know why these multi-million dollar films FAIL? Because I guess they think it's ok for kids to run around using A**, D***, H***, and SH** as well as giving the finger. Not to mention the over the top violence and kids beating each other up. Who do they make these films for? Not the target audience based on the toys lining the shelves, the happy meals and the cartoons. By the time my kid is old enough to understand the rudeness of the behavior, they will no longer be interested in watching Speed Racer. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone with pre-teen kids, so I guess I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. Again, Hollywood FAILS. Any parents that think this is acceptable should ask themselves if this is the type of behavior they find OK. And the common sense reviewer here also needs to re-examine her outlook - it's very questionable coming from a website like this.


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