Sara Vilkomerson’s Guide To This Week’s Movies: Whatcha thinkin’, Wachowskis?

O.K., temperatures may only sporadically hitting the 70s, but summer blockbuster season is officially here. Iron Man opened last weekend with a whopping $104.2 million stateside and another 96.8 million overseas ($201 million all together in its first five days). That beats even what the studio was hoping for (a mere $90 million domestically) and out there in Hollywoodland, executive types are thrilled that all the bemoaning and hand-wringing over the death of the box office was premature. Iron Man came in right behind Spider-Man in the top-ten best openings of all time. For irresistible star Robert Downey Jr., and the newly short-skirted (and likable!) Gwyneth Paltrow, this is a whole new world, as we’re guessing you could add up the grosses of their last four or five movies and not come near Iron Man’s one-weekend haul. Hey, Batman, are you ready for this jelly?


ANOTHER BIGGIE COMES our way this weekend: Speed Racer. This is the first directorial outing for the Wachowski brothers since the Matrix trilogy (though they wrote the screenplay for V for Vendetta) and we’ve been eager to see if Speed Racer could blow our minds the way Neo/Keanu did back in ’99. The answer is … sorta? But not necessarily in the way you might want your mind blown. It’s true that Speed Racer looks like nothing you’ve ever seen before—insane (insane!) colors, a wholly imagined universe of loop-de-loop race tracks, flying machines and Crayola-blue skies. Emile Hirsch stars as Speed Racer, a boy who idolizes older brother Rex Racer and is devastated when the object of his hero worship dies in a car crash. We could go on and lay out what the rest of the plot is about, but in truth, halfway through this movie we were rubbing our eyes and looking around to see if anyone else was as confused as we were. Because we were lost somewhere around the time we were trying to understand the role of the monkey (yes, we know it’s from the cartoon, but whatever), and wondering what it was Susan Sarandon, Christina Ricci, John Goodman, Matthew Fox and Mr. Hirsch—all talented actors—were thinking about as they delivered lines of dialogue that never went quite far enough to be camp, so instead ended up just sounding … flat. And bad, actually. (It’s never good when snickers arise over things that aren’t supposed to be funny.) We’d like to give this movie the benefit of the doubt—we get that it is geared toward preadolescent boys who will be delighted by the colors and the speed and won’t miss anything like characters or plot. But can’t we have both? And if so, can we request one that doesn’t induce a headache and vertigo?

Speed Racer opens Friday at Regal Union Square, Regal E-Walk 42nd Street and AMC Loews Lincoln Square IMAX.