Speed Racer Release Date: Available now (original release date September 16, 2008) Studio: Warner Home Video Packaging/Materials: Single-disc Blu-Ray case with cardstock slipcover Year: 2008 Rating: PG Running Time: 2h15m Video: VC-1, 1080p high definition 16x9 2.40:1 / Special features "may be in standard definition" Audio: Dolby Digital: English 5.1, French 5.1 (dubbed in Quebec), Spanish 5.1, Portuguese 5.1 / Special features "audio standards may vary" Subtitles: English, French, Spanish and Portuguese (movie and select bonus material) MSRP: $35.99 The Feature: 3.5/5 Speed Racer (Emile Hirsche) comes from a family that lives and breathes auto racing. His brother Rex was an up and coming competitor in the World Racing League until his tragic death in the cutthroat Casa Cristo cross-country rally. The loss of his elder sibling haunts Speed, but also compels him to excel and it doesn't take long for lucrative investors to start knocking on his door, vying for a piece of his promising future. One in particular, E.P. Arnold Royalton (Roger Allam), offers him the brass ring, an offer apparently Speed can't - or shouldn't - refuse. But staying true to his family and himself, he does refuse, and Royalton intends to make him regret it. But it's more than just Speed behind the wheel of his faithful Mach 5, he's got all his family and friends with him and it's going to take a lot to break that Racer family spirit. When the Wachowski Brothers were announced as the directors for the live action adaptation of "Speed Racer," no one doubted it would be a technical tour de force. What people didn't expect was how far they would take it beyond the rather rudimentary animated source material. While the film includes certain aspects of the popular 1960s Japanese import, it's all just a drop in the bucket compared to what the Wachowskis wound up extrapolating. Apparently taking a kaleidoscope's internal colors and movements as inspiration, the live action version of Speed Racer is bright, colorful and in constant, interweaving motion. On the whole the slick and often frenetic aesthetic seemed to alienate filmgoers; however a small contingent embraced the film, perhaps seeing within its multilayered scenes and seamless CGI environments something that reminded them of the Speed Racer of yore. Though "style over substance" is a common - and usually valid - criticism for today's CGI-heavy films, it's hard to make that claim about "Speed Racer." Yes, there's lots of technical wizardry and the action set pieces will make your head spin, but the constant throughline is family, loyalty, bravery. These are worthwhile messages, especially in a film that is aimed at and will appeal to children. The only true misstep is wrapping the central conflict around a conspiracy to manipulate stock prices. Most adults barely understand the stock market, so why would kids even care? That aside, "Speed Racer" provides plenty of entertainment with solid family themes, though I still have to recommend it as a rental first given its polarizing effect at the box office and the "PG" rating that brings with it some language and gestures that may not fly with some parents. Video Quality: 4.5/5 Though many have debated the beauty of "Speed Racer's" kaleidoscope of color and movement, Blu-Ray proves a worthy medium for presenting its controversial aesthetic. The film's super-saturated color palette and its black levels are deep and stable. Shadow detail and delineation take a hit in the process, but the slight black crush may have been the intent given the source material. Detail is not as consistent, however, skin texture being appropriately visible at times, but at others being quite absent with an unappealing, artificial smoothness that is usually the sign of digital noise reduction. Viewers may notice some slight edge halos as well. Overall it's an impressive transfer with a few notable issues that keep it from perfection. Audio Quality: 4/5 Most notable in "Speed Racer's" audio presentation is the absence of a lossless or uncompressed audio option. Though the 640 kbps Dolby Digital track is appropriately dynamic and enveloping, it's hard not to wonder what we're missing after hearing the benefits of high resolution audio treatment in other films. Though the omission is somewhat understandable with mono tracks of 70-year old films (e.g. "The Adventures of Robin Hood"), it's puzzling when it comes to a modern film like "Speed Racer." As it is, the audio presentation has a balanced mix with strong and near-constant activity in the entire speaker array and consistently clear dialogue. In hindsight (hindhearing?) LFE was not as deep and robust as I was anticipating. Special Features: 3/5 Speed Racer: Car Fu (27m38s): Visual effects documentary covers early concepts, animatics, CGI and the gimbal rig created to help the actors feel more integrated into the driving action. Spritle In the Big Leagues (14m34s): Actor Paulie Litt (who played Spritle) goes behind the scenes of the production hitting the prop shop, the art department, visual effects department and many points in between. Though geared towards kids in its humor, Litt is entertaining and makes some good observations. Speed Racer: Supercharged! (15m43s): A look at the different cars and drivers in the World Racing League. Again the piece is geared toward kids, but it's pretty impressive all the fictional technology and history that was created for the Speed Racer world. "Speed Racer Crucible Challenge" DVD Game: Using the player remote's directional and enter buttons, complete four racing challenges found in the movie. I don't understand the appeal of these kinds of games - they pale in comparison to modern video games. If I find them antiquated in design, execution and gameplay experience, I can't imagine what a kid actually thinks of them. Digital Copy: Download a copy of the movies to your computer or portable video device. Unfortunately, the feature is only compatible with Windows computers. I have a Mac so am unable to comment on the quality or the method of access. Recap The Feature: 3.5/5 Video Quality: 4.5/5 Audio Quality: 4/5 Special Features: 3/5 Overall Score (not an average): 3.5/5 Polarizing, live action adaptation of a popular 1960s anime gets a fine high definition transfer, acceptable but limited audio track options, and an average special features package.