May 19, 2008 12:00 PM

Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci, Susan Sarandon, John Goodman, Roger Allam, Matthew Fox | PG |

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Speed Racer dazzles with its lollipop-hued shininess but, sorry to report, there’s nothing under the hood of this movie about an ambitious race car driver. Nada. Based on a 1960s Japanese anime TV series and directed by brothers Larry and Andy Wachowski (The Matrix trilogy), the futuristic, live-action film offers a story and characters so bereft of originality or individuality that it might as well have been a cartoon.

Speed Racer (Hirsch) hopes to follow in the tire tracks of his adored late brother, a legendary driver. With the support of his loving family (Sarandon and Goodman play his parents) and girlfriend (Ricci), Speed must overcome corporate venality and other challenges to compete in a grand prix.

Hirsch is beyond bland, which is more the script’s fault than his. Not even a pro like Sarandon can rescue a line as hokey as Mom telling Speed, “I go to the races to watch you make art.” Only Racer’s look will interest thinking adults, and even that has limits. The lurid Day-Glo palette made me feel as if I were trapped inside a virtual version of Candy Land. Which is probably why Fred, my 8-year-old consultant on kids’ flicks, loved Racer. His only criticism: “This should totally be in 3-D.” At least that would give the film some dimension.

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