While I've not been a fan of the adaptating of older animated shows in recent years ("Alvin and the Chipmunks", "Underdog"), the idea of turning "Speed Racer" into a sleek, CGI-heavy blockbuster and new animated series strikes me as rather bizarre, given the original 1960's-era Japanese show's ultra no-budget animation. That's "Speed Racer", these two properties feel like something else that happens to be by the same name.
"Speed Racer: The Next Generation" isn't as dismal as it may sound, but watching it makes one wonder what the point is aside from the fact that it was an easy idea and the movie coming out allows for equally easy promotional opportunities. The animated series focuses on the adventures of Speed Racer. Not that Speed Racer - Speed Racer's son, also named...Speed Racer.
This intro episode to the series has Speed entering the elite Racing Academy and not only finding out about his past, but also finding out that competitive classmate X is actually his brother. The conflict of the episode has Speed going up against evil billionaire Zile Zazic, who's intent on stopping Speed from finding the remaining clues he needs to build a gasless engine for his planned Mach-6 car.
The series - or at least this episode - has a low budget style that either is trying to create a look that resembles the low budget original enough without making kids unaware of the original wonder why the show doesn't look like the sleek cartoons on Saturday morning. Either that or the show is just cheaply made, but I'll give it the benefit of the doubt and believe it's the former and not the latter. While the writing of the original wasn't anything great, it had a certain charm that this lacks, as the writing here feels like your average Saturday morning kids action cartoon. Overall, this series will entertain kids, but I just didn't find it too engaging.
VIDEO: Lionsgate offers the show in 1.33:1 full-frame. Image quality is fine, as the basic 2D animation is given a crisp showcase here. Some minor artifacting is spotted, but no edge enhancement, shimmering or other concerns are seen. Colors look fine, but lack a certain snap to them. However, not having seen the show as broadcast I'm not sure that the show's color palette hasn't always looked this way.
SOUND: The show is presented here in Dolby Digital 5.1. Despite the 5.1 presentation, this is not a particularly active soundtrack, with the surrounds used only occasionally for basic sound effects or ambience. Audio quality was fine, with crisp dialogue and effects.
EXTRAS: "Making of" featurette, trailers, "Meet the Folks at the Racing Academy" and interactive game.
Final Thoughts:Overall, this series will entertain kids, but I just didn't find it too engaging. The DVD presentation offers decent audio/video quality and a few minor extras. Those interested should try as a rental.