Home > Reviews > SPEED RACER – Michael Giacchino

SPEED RACER – Michael Giacchino

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A cartoonish action adventure inspired by the classic 1960s Japanese animated TV series of the same name (which, I have to admit, I had never heard of prior to this movie), Speed Racer is directed by ‘Matrix’ creators Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski, and stars Emile Hirsch as the eponymous hero, a young driver from a racing-crazy family who competes in a series of neon-garish grand prix in various locations around the world. The film also stars Christina Ricci, Matthew Fox, John Goodman and Susan Sarandon, and features an original score by Michael Giacchino.

It almost pains me to say it, but Speed Racer follows on from Mission Impossible III as one of the few Giacchino scores I really didn’t like. Like the film itself, the score is a fast-moving, energetic, but ultimately rather chaotic musical collage of styles and influences, ranging from typical Hollywood action music to guitar driven rock to Henry Mancini-style light jazz and pop. Some of the action cues – notably “Worlds Worst Road Rage”, “Casa Cristo”, “The Maltese Ice Cave”, “Grand Ol’ Prix” and the excellent “Reboot” – are exciting and powerful, with sequences that raise the pulse through their dramatic brass writing, relentless pacing and breathless string runs.

A couple of cues, notably “Tragic Story of Rex Racer”, have a cooing vocal effect to add a touch of exotic wonderment, while cues such as “Thunderhead” have a groovy jazz inflection that recalls his work on The Incredibles but without that score’s sense of sleek panache. The final cue, “Speed Racer”, is a nostalgic new arrangement of the original TV theme by Japanese composers Nobuyoshi Koshibe and Yoshida Yoshiyuki, which ends the album nicely.

However, throughout the score there just seems to be an overarching cheesiness, and a certain sense of a lack of restraint, which makes Speed Racer an ultimately exhausting score to experience. The music is just so relentlessly flashy, moving all over the place, changing styles and genres with gay abandon, the strings fluttering and scampering up and down the scales, that by the end of the album you just feel worn out.

Rating: ***

Track Listing:

  • I Am Speed (0:37)
  • World’s Best Autopia (1:15)
  • Thunderhead (3:07)
  • Tragic Story of Rex Racer (4:49)
  • Vroom and Board (3:38)
  • World’s Worst Road Rage (2:41)
  • Racing’s In Our Blood (1:52)
  • True Heart of Racing (4:05)
  • Casa Cristo (4:02)
  • End of the First Leg (2:20)
  • Taejo Turns Trixie (1:37)
  • Bumper to Bumper, Rail to Rail (3:07)
  • The Maltese Ice Cave (2:04)
  • Go Speed, Go! (1:24)
  • He Ain’t Heavy (1:45)
  • 32 Hours (3:49)
  • Grand Ol’ Prix (6:13)
  • Reboot (3:08)
  • Let Us Drink Milk (4:33)
  • Speed Racer (4:21)

Running Time: 60 minutes 27 seconds

Varèse Sarabande VSD-6898 (2008)

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