I stumbled into my house about midnight Friday night/Saturday morning after a long, late flight home from southern California, where I attended the “Speed Racer” film junket.
The movie screened for print press Thursday night in Los Angeles, but most of the activities took place Friday at Long Beach Convention Center, the hub of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. In addition to interviewing the cast, we got to watch some of the race cars doing their practice runs.
My high school and college exploits zipping down the backroads near Lindsay and Stillwater in my ’68 Mustang Fastback notwithstanding, I’ve never really watched or participated in auto racing. I envisioned a big stadium with a huge track inside it, but the Toyota Grand Prix actually involved shutting down streets in Long Beach, erecting bleachers and barriers, and watching race cars scream down the streets between the convention center and California Pizza Kitchen. It was noisy and fast and not a little surreal.
Along with viewing the practice racing and the “lifestyle expo” (basically lots of booths with cars and car-related stuff), we got a chance to play with the new toys from “Speed Racer.”
Because of studio regulations, I can’t tell you what I thought of the movie until it opens May 9, but I can tell you that the toys are pretty cool. Hot Wheels has developed a couple of slick new roller coaster-esque tracks inspired by the movie to go along with the new diecast versions of the Mach 5 and the film’s other sleek speedsters.
But the best of the toys is definitely the new “Speed Racer” game for the Nintendo Wii. I got to spend about five minutes playing up against a Ninetendo rep. It was my first time playing the Wii, and I had an absolute blast. I generally don’t play racing games because using a traditional controller just feels awkward and not very gratifying. But the Wii-mote feels very natural – you can also use the steering wheel peripheral – and much easier to control.
Like the movie, the game’s racing action is fast, colorful and aggressive. While keeping the Mach 5 (or other racer) speeding along the narrow, twisty track, you also try to knock other cars out of the way. You can do all sorts of jumps and spins to help you win the race.
Here’s a look at the game’s trailer:
I had so much fun with it, I’m actually thinking of buying a Wii so I can play it. Go, BAM, go!