Tuesday, February 12, 2013

TV Review : Speed Racer - the Next Generation (2008)

View the Speed Racer -The Next Generation trailer here.

There are three ways to sell an existing children's show premise to a new generation.  You can continue the series, adding new origin stories to bring the youngsters up to speed (which is rare).  You can completely reboot the series ignoring that the original even existed (more common).  Or you can continue the series, but with the stars being a younger generation, usually descendants of the original characters.  Speed Racer - The Next Generation falls into this last category.

Made to capitalize on the... popularity (I'm not sure that's the right word in this case)... of the 2008 live action movie Speed Racer, SR-NexGen takes place years after the original Speed Racer series of the 1960's.  Speed Racer has disappeared years ago while being chased for his designs for the Mach 6 and it's gasless engine technology.  Teenage orphan, Speed (no last name), shows up at a high tech racing high school with only a duffel bag of clothes, a mysterious key, a red bandanna that his unknown father left him, and a dream to become a great race car driver like this idol, Speed Racer (Just who is paying the bill for this orphan to attend an obviously expensive and elite private school is never made clear).  He quickly meets X Racer, the son of Speed Racer who happens to be going to the same school, and Annalise, X's girlfriend and daughter of one of the original Speed Racer's greatest enemies (also the guy who has spent a lot of money to build the school).  Then he meets his roommate Conner, the biggest Speed Racer fan of all time and diamond-in-the-rough mechanic, his robotic monkey Chim-Chim, and Lucy, a talented track strategist. Wouldn't you know, the headmaster of the school just happens to be Speed Racer's younger brother Spritle.  An odd and extremely generous series of events introduces Speed, Conner, Chim-Chim, and Lucy to the pieces of the Mach 5 (Speed Racer's car), hidden in the school's junk yard.  Speed's mysterious key just so happens to be the key to the Mach 5.  They rebuild the car (briefly) only to discover a secret hidden within it... the top secret plans for the Mach 6.  They build the Mach 6, but find that, while it runs great on gasoline, to make the engine gasless requires components that they don't have the specs for.  With use of the school's "Virtual Track" (a lame way to allow racing in Speed Racer- like environments without having the students leave the school), racing action ensues.  Oh, and Spritle spills the beans that Speed is in fact Speed Racer's youngest son, and therefore brother to X and nephew to Spritle.

Are you with me so far?  Good.  Now we are going to look at my biggest issues with the series. 

First off the characters, past and present.  Obviously, X is named after Speed Racer's older brother Rex (aka Racer X).  But why he was named "X", and not "Rex" is anyone's guess.  And speaking of Racer X, they don't... ever.  No mention is made of Racer X or Rex in the entire 26 episode first season (I didn't watch the second season, the first was painful enough).  We do see Racer X's car, the Shooting Star, as a slot car on X's toy track, and X's own car is called the Shooting Star, but those are the only references.  There is also zero mention of the Racer brothers' mother, grandmother, or grandfather.  So we have no clue if their mother is Trixie (who is also absent), and if so, where the hell she disappeared to.  Also there is no mention of what ever happened to Pops Racer.  Speed Racer's mechanic, Sparky, does appear, but only for a couple of minutes very late in the series.  Zile Zazik was once a great race car driver, and Rival to Speed Racer, yet now, he never drives, ever.  He is always driven by his henchman, even in a race.  This is never explained.

Now the technical aspects.  In the 26 episode first season, there are two "clip shows" that recap everything that has gone on in the show.  These are totally unnecessary, and seem to only serve the purpose of padding the series because the writers couldn't come up with two more stories.  The sound mix is horrible.  The special effects and music are at a louder volume than the dialog, and often drown out what the characters are saying.

Being a children's show, I didn't expect a lot, but I was disappointed with what there was.  But also being a children's show, I'm willing to give it a little slack, which makes it just barely miss my lowest possible rating.

I give Speed Racer - The Next Generation a DAGGER, placed in the hands of a robotic monkey (who, sadly, was the most interesting character in the show).  Go, Speed, Go Away.


-Mornblade

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