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Speed Racer 

The plucky race-car driver gets a flashy digital update.

Andy and Larry Wachowski unleash their box of digital tricks on this live-action adaptation of the 1960s Japanese cartoon about the young auto racer. As expected, the Matrix brothers bring a lot of visual flair, though there's nothing you haven't seen before: kooky screen wipes, hyper-color and dense, fantastic, digitally produced sets. The highly stylized car races are somewhere between a video pinball game and Tron, but their narrative excitement is conveyed in voiceovers, seriously compromising our involvement. The cast, headed by Emile Hirsch, look like they're having fun -- nobody has to break much a sweat aping cartoon characters -- though Christina Ricci, as Trixie, is woefully underwritten. Only Roger Allam rises above, bringing a delicious British nastiness to his role as the corporate villain. (Though any pointyheads in the audience will be distracted by his remarkable resemblance to writer Christopher Hitchens.) In all, it's a pretty faithful if frivolous adaptation of Speed Racer, which begs the obvious: Why is this high-octane goof stretched beyond the two-hour mark, and who bogged it down with all the deadly dull dialogue? Starts Fri., May 9. (AH) [capsule review]

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