I have a confession. I actually start to really like Speed Racer towards the end. It's tough to get into it at first, because the opening race is broken up by like 20 flashbacks to Speed as a little boy, and the next half-hour after the race is about contract negotiations. Also, the bright colors and the fake backgrounds and all the little kids running around make you feel like you're watching a cross between Spy Kids 3-D and Lazytown. But by the time you get to the end, everybody starts swearing a lot more, and everyone's motivations are a lot clearer, and you're a lot more emotionally invested in the action. (I also realized that the cartoon-y filmmaking style was actually pretty darn faithful to the original series' animation.) So I was pretty happy going into the extras for this DVD, but once I realized that there was no commentary track and only two features, I was kinda disappointed again.
Spritle in the Big Leagues
Spritle, of course, is Speed Racer's little brother, who hides in the trunk all the time with his pet monkey, Chim-Chim. If following a chubby 12-year-old child actor around doesn't sound like fun to you... you're right. But there're actually some interesting tidbits in this feature, if you can make it through all 15 minutes. As actor Paulie Litt wanders around the Berlin set, avoiding a security guard who looks like the mechanic from Raiders of the Lost Ark, we see all aspects of production, from stuntwork and costumes to the special effects department and... yes, monkey training. And as Litt asks his own questions, we also get Pop-up Video-style boxes that give us interesting facts, like that lead ninja and ninja stunt coordinator Philip Tan was European disco champion two years in a row! I cannot make that up. It would have been cool to see that as a feature on the regular film, but oh, well. Also, singer/dancer Rain does the moonwalk. Take that, Stephen Colbert!
Speed Racer: Supercharged
The second feature on the disc is a car-by-car, driver-by-driver, sponsor-by-sponsor and track-by-track breakdown of the world of racing, explaining who all the players are and what the layout of each race is like. Treated like straight-up, futuristic sports commentary, it seems like it could have been cool sprinkled throughout the movie, but then they probably would have had to cut some contract negotiations. Basically, it's an excuse to show off the creativity put into each of the car and track designs, taking the computer-generated images and spinning them around, stripping away the exteriors to show the intricate 3-D framework beneath. Some of the sponsor names are pretty funny, but the highly detailed techno-babble gets a little annoying after a while. Not knowing anything about cars, I wasn't sure what was real and what was made-up, and after a while I didn't care.
Aside from a download-able digital copy of the film, that's it for the one-disc DVD release. The three-disc Blu-ray edition, however, sports a few more items, including a 30-minute "making-of" doc on the elaborate "car-fu" car fights that occur throughout the races. There's also a regular DVD copy on the second disc and a video game on the third disk. Still no commentary track, but considering that the Wachowskis don't show up on any of the features, it's not really surprising.