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Jennifer • Dec 07, 2007 • Films

When it hit the airwaves in the late 1960s, Speed Racer was pretty innovative television — for a cartoon.

Four decades later, the story of a family that works out its issues on a racetrack seems a little hokey.

So how do you please a YouTube generation that likes its humor ironic and its special effects cutting-edge while pleasing baby boom moviegoers who still remember Trixie’s haircut and Chim Chim’s jumpsuit?

The brothers Wachowski (The Matrix trilogy, V for Vendetta) take a crack at updating the cartoon with Speed Racer, which gets its first look here and whose trailer runs tonight on Entertainment Tonight.

The film comes after an uneven track record of big-screen TV adaptations. Transformers was a smash. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Not so much.

But Racer, says producer Joel Silver, has a trump card — or two, actually — in Andy and Larry Wachowski, the gadget-happy siblings who were huge fans of the TV series, one of the first Japanese cartoons to make it to the USA.

“The effects are beyond belief. We called it ‘car fu,’ because it was like kung fu with the cars,” Silver says. “We couldn’t have made this movie until right now.”

But effects, he says, take a back seat to the Wachowskis’ true love of the old series: the cars, costumes and message.

“It obviously has a present-day aesthetic to it,” Silver says. “But it’s still a great yarn about family and not selling out. That’s an important message to the (Wachowskis) and why we all connected to the show.”

Well, not everyone. Christina Ricci, who plays faithful girlfriend Trixie, first saw Speed Racer in clips in Geico insurance commercials.

She quickly received an armful of DVDs to acquaint herself with the Racer family, which includes a monkey, Chim Chim. Unlike stars Emile Hirsch and John Goodman, Chim Chim required two stand-ins: Kenzie and Willie.

“You’d think that would be tough, using live monkeys,” Ricci says. “Now we’re worried about them stealing the movie.”

From USA Today

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