Need for Speed

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One of my oldest friends was a Need for Speed video game fan when he was fourteen through sixteen, and in memory of his adolescent enthusiasm I took a spin through the movie incarnation of the racing game series.  I am not a huge racing fan for racing’s sake.  A good race can be a great thing to watch, and there were many race scenes in the original Star Wars series, for example, that were done quite well.

There is definitely a late-adolescent feel to the Need for Speed movie, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.  Any style, even Young Adult racing fantasy like this, can be enjoyable if it is done well.  And I have to say that Need for Speed is done very well.

The aspects of adolescent male fantasy are all there:  Million dollar cars, bright colors, an excellent sample of music, and pretty women in the background are only the most obvious draws.  Computer graphics (I hope) allow them to do things to multimillion-dollar cars that gave me flashbacks to how The Dukes of Hazard went broke replacing chassis on expensive cars.  The relationships are also juvenile.  Grown men really expect beautiful women to like them because of their car, and not based on how they speak to or treat them.  People in the military are willing to give buddies joyrides in helicopters, those people then get chased down by fighter jets, etc.

It is a fantasy.  Accept that and the rest is gravy.

Accept that this is a sixteen-year-old’s take on reality, and the movie becomes awesome.  I am not a car guy, but the cars are beautiful, powerful, and great to watch in action.  Everything that folks enjoyed from the video games in in here.  Dodging cops?  Check.  Someone flying overhead simultaneously staying in the air and relaying critical instructions?  You betcha.  A wise-acre pit crew to make a running commentary?  Absolutely.

This is the sort of film that critics will hate and the target audience will love.  There are no controversial social issues, no overt political statements, and no advancement of a particular agenda.  It is, however, a glorious bit of fan service for a long-established video game franchise.  The boys and girls who grew up playing the racing games have budgets and transportation in their adult years to see what happened to their childhood memories.  I have no doubt that those fans will find their money rewarded.

Non-gamers will get plenty to enjoy.  Amusing banter alternates with roaring engines.  None of the characters break new dramatic ground, but they are pleasant stock personalities easy to like because we have seen their type a hundred times in film and television.  The computer graphics are pleasant if not ground-breaking.  The guided tour to roadside scenery of the continental US was a treat as well.  Wind-washed mesas contrast with metal canyons of New York.  Motor City gets a cameo.  The writers definitely know that their audience includes video game kids recently grown up, as there is a great I quit! scene at the start of act three.

I enjoyed watching old friends banter and share and adventure.  I am not a car guy but the visuals stunned me.  There are elements of a chase story on top of the race/competition bit.

That is not to say that I love everything about the film.  I like the film just fine as fantasy, but I cringe a little bit that some stupid kid will take the fantasy and think it is reality.  First, cars do not do that, to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars worth of repair bills, and jails are not as fun or brief as the film depicts.  Multiple felonies rack up and only get a few months, not five or ten years, to say nothing about what the armed forces would do to someone who absconded with a military aircraft to help some friends with a joyride.

Those criticisms aside, this film was a fun bit of escapist adventure, and I recommend it.

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