Australian Council on Children and the Media

Speed Racer

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Not recommended under 10, PG to 13 due to violence, disturbing scenes, themes and coarse language.

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Speed Racer
  • a review of Speed Racer completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 12 June 2008.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 10 Not recommended due to violence, disturbing scenes, themes and coarse language.
Children 10-12 Parental guidance recommended due to violence, disturbing scenes, themes and coarse language. May be too long for younger children.
Children 13 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Speed Racer
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Action violence and coarse language
Length 135 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) is an eighteen-year-old driver taking the race-world by storm in his “Mach 5” racing car as he chases his dead brother’s track record. For Speed and his family racing is a way of life. Speed’s father Pops (John Goodman) designed and built the Mach 5, with support coming from Mom (Susan Sarandon), Speed’s younger brother Spritle (Paulie Litt), Speed’s life long companion Trixie (Christina Ricci) and mechanic Sparky (Kick Gurry).

Life for Speed changes dramatically when E.P. Arnold Royalton (Roger Allam) the owner of Royalton Industries (makers of car engines) offers Speed a place on his race team. When Speed refuses, Royalton turns nasty, revealing that all races are fixed to profit powerful corporations. Royalton informs Speed that unless he signs with Royalton industries he will never be allowed to win a race and that his career, family and life will be at risk.

Speed is approached by Inspector Detector (Benno Furmann) of the CIB, and asked to join forces with Racer X (Matthew Fox) and a Japanese racer Taejo Togokhan (Rain) to enter the gruelling Casa Cristo race in an attempt to expose Royalton’s illegal race fixing activities.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Corruption in the world of car-racing

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

Speed Racer contains frequent stylised action-violence, much of it on the race track. There are frequent scenes of cars crashing, including cars flying through the air and bursting into flames. Examples of violence include:

  • Competitors frequently slam their cars into rival competitor’s cars to force them off the track.
  • Drivers use spiked wheels to shred the tires of other drivers and dump slime onto the track, forcing cars to skid out of control.
  • Circular saw blades extend from the front of one car, cutting a path through anything they encounter.
  • The driver of one car catapults a hornet’s nest into a rival driver’s face, causing the driver to lose control and swerve off the road.
  • A driver throws a live snake into the lap of a rival, causing the driver to flip his car which bursts into flames.
  • During a race a driver repeatedly fires a handgun at Speed.         
  • Speed deliberately rams a rival’s car, forcing the driver to drive off a cliff.
  • Rex Racer crashes into the side of a tunnel with the car exploding into a burst of flames. We hear that Rex was killed in the crash.
  • The young Speed sits on Rex Racer’s lap in a car speeding around a racetrack. When we next see Speed he has bandages around his head and is missing his two front teeth, while Rex has cut to his head.
  • In a flashback, ten-year-old Trixie punches another ten-year-old girl in the face.
  • A ticking package is sent to Rex. He puts it into a go-cart and sends it into the street where it explodes without causing any injuries.
  • In a flash back, we see a young Speed racer attacking another young boy with his fists.
  • A large intimidating gangster slaps and punches Taejo Togokahn in the face resulting in Taejo having a bloody nose.
  • Two men grab Taejo, forcing one of his hands into a pirranha filled tank but the hand is pulled out before the piranhas reach it. The main offender threatens Taejo with, “next time it’s your sister in there.”
  • Gangsters in a semi trailer shoot at an approaching racing car with machine guns. The driver returns fire, using his own mounted machine guns, causing the trailer to swerve all over the road. The gangsters inside the trailer fall and tumble about and we see the trailer riddled with bullet holes. The gangsters throw Taejo out of the back of the trailer and he tumbles and rolls along the road but appears uninjured.
  • Old TV footage shows a stunt driver on the bonnet of a car crashing through a burning fence and a man in flames running.
  • A man holds another man by the throat dangling him over the edge of a high-rise building; the man does not fall.
  • A Ninja poisons Taejo by dripping poison into his mouth while he is asleep.
  • Ninja-like attackers fight with Speed Racer, Racer X and Pops with punches and kicks to the face and body. One man twists another man’s arm and fingers and we hear the sounds of bones breaking. Pops lifts attackers and slams them into the ground and out of a window. Racer X punches one attacker so hard in the face that the attacker is lifted out of his pants.
  • A Ninja attempts to stab Speed with a poisoned dart from a blowpipe, and we see several people lying unconscious on the ground the result of having been struck by poisoned darts.          
  • A man points a gun at Taejo. As Taejo grabs and twists the man’s wrist we hear the sounds of bones breaking. Taejo then grabs the man by the throat and takes the gun away.
  • A man drives his car over the top of a car driven by Trixie, trying to grind Trixie’s head with the wheel of his car.  The wheel spins inches from Trixie’s face.
  • A group of gangsters hold Speed, Racer X, Trixie, Pops and Spritle at gunpoint. A brawl erupts with lots of punching and kicking, with men being thrown through the air. Pops twists a gangster’s foot and Spritle shoots one of the attackers in the head with a slingshot. Spritle’s chimpanzee throws faeces at a man, hitting him in the face and hits a man over the head with a wrench, knocking him unconscious.          
  • Speed takes out his pent-up aggression by driving in a reckless manner around a racetrack, crashing his car into Racer X’s car.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Rex Racer lies on an operating table with his face covered in bandages.
  • After his brother is killed, the young Speed racer is seen distraught and crying on his mother’s shoulder.
  • Royalton offer a million dollars to the driver who can kill Speed during the Grand Prix and the men racing against him all look very threatening.     
  • A large, intimidating Japanese cartoon character with an ugly face and broken teeth threatens to eat his victim’s soul.
  • Arnold Royalton takes on a very threatening and intimidating demeanour, at times appearing insane.
  • Spritle opens a door to be faced with Racer X wearing a mask. Spritle looks scared and screams out, calling Racer X the “harbinger of doom.”
  • A glass ball filled with blood explodes.
  • One scene contains images of a tank of vicious looking pirranhas with large razor-sharp teeth. A large piece of bloody meat is dropped into the tank and the piranhas in a feeding frenzy strip the meat to the bone. Later when the same fish tank gets a bullet hole in its side, a man is forced to put his finger in the hole and we see pirranhas swimming towards the finger. The man screams and flails about and the water turn red. Later we see the man with a bloodied bandage around the stump of his severed finger.
  • Several scenes show a young overweight boy (Spritle Racer) gorging himself on lollies and junk food to the point where he either collapse from exhaustion, or becomes hyperactive.           

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the violence and scenes described above.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Nothing of concern

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

Speed Racer contains infrequent low-level sexual references. Examples include:

  • After seeing Speed and Trixie about to kiss, Spritle tell them “I’m gonna hurl”, He then make a remark about “cooties.”

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some partial nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Several scenes feature women wearing revealing clothing, including short skirts, brief shorts and low cut tops.
  • Speed and Trixie sit in a car overlooking a romantic scene. They talk and then lean towards each other but are interrupted by Spritle before they kiss.
  • A female racer sticks her tongue out at Speed in a sensual manner, revealing a stud in her tongue.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Several scenes show people drinking beer, champagne and mixed drinks.
  • Mr Royalton give Pops a box of “hand rolled” cigars and we later see a man smoking a cigar.
  • We see images of a hookah pipe, but do not see people smoking from it. 
  • Mr. Royalton asks Speed if he would like some champagne or a shot of whisky. Speed refuses.
  • Speed and Trixie drink wine in a restaurant.
  • A Ninja uses poison dripped down a string to incapacitate a driver and poison darts to incapacitate guards.
  • Viking-like racers drink alcohol from mugs in a rowdy manner.      

Coarse language

Speed Racer contains some coarse language, name-calling and putdowns. For example:

  • Retard; insane; bumpkin; trash; He’s just dumb; You can bet your arse; He’s damn proud; God help them; O my god; Shit; Little turd; holy sh..; Keep that shit off my stack.   
  • Spritle makes a rude finger gesture to a man.

In a nutshell

Speed Racer, based upon the late 1960’s animated TV show, is a stylised action car racing film which targets a young adult and older adolescent male audience. The film runs for 2 hours and fifteen minutes, and may be too long for younger viewers.

The main messages from this movie are that right will eventually triumph over wrong and that criminals will eventually receive their just rewards.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • self-sacrifice, loyalty and courage.
  • family devotion

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • reckless driving and road rage
  • the health risks to young children of being over-weight like Spritle, and what should be considered as reasonable in terms of consuming junk food
  • excessive wealth and corruption
  • the portrayal of female characters

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