Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Speed Racer

posted by Nell Minow
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for sequences of action, some violence, language and brief smoking.
Profanity:Some brief bad words, s-word bleeped but still obvious, character gives "the finger"
Nudity/Sex:One kiss
Violence/Scariness:Intense acton violence and peril including flesh-eating fish, bomb, guns, kung fu, and racing accidents, sad off-screen death
Diversity Issues:Diverse characters
Movie Release Date:May 9, 2008
DVD Release Date:September 16, 2008
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for sequences of action, some violence, language and brief smoking.
Profanity: Some brief bad words, s-word bleeped but still obvious, character gives "the finger"
Nudity/Sex: One kiss
Alcohol/Drugs: Smoking
Violence/Scariness: Intense acton violence and peril including flesh-eating fish, bomb, guns, kung fu, and racing accidents, sad off-screen death
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Movie Release Date: May 9, 2008
DVD Release Date: September 16, 2008

Andy and Larry Wachowski, the folks behind the Matrix trilogy, have taken the iconic but decidedly low-tech 1960’s Japanese cartoon character and put the pedal to the metal with dazzling effects and electrifying action. Do what Speed Racer does — put on your red socks and GO!

Even as a child, Speed Racer could only think of one thing, making cars go as fast as possible. Not surprising — he was surrounded by racing. The family business was race cars. His father (John Goodman) built them and his older brother drove them. When his brother is killed in a crash, Speed (Emile Hirsch) takes over. On and off the race track he battles the competition, even when they do not fight fairly. By his side are his parents, his little brother, his and his girlfriend Trixie (Christina Ricci, looking like a real-life version of an anime heroine with her enormous eyes).


The plot is pretty much the same as the cartoon series, meaning light-weight and a little incoherent. Basically, evil forces are trying to stop Speed from winning the race. The sections with the kid brother and his chimp are slow points for everyone over age 9 but it is all great fun, with a hero to believe in and visuals that are both reassuringly retro and stunningly innovative. Every wallpaper and fabric, each car, helmet, and racetrack is meticulously designed to evoke a mash-up between Speed’s Norman Rockwell-style, solidly heartland home and the souped-up super space age world outside. The Wachowskis re-invent the color wheel with reds and yellows that make fire engines and school buses seem pale.

The dialogue is pared down to essentials: “You think you can drive a car and change the world? It doesn’t work like that!” “Maybe not, but it’s the only thing I know how to do and I gotta do something.” The plot is no more significant (or confusing) than in the cartoon originals. All we need to know is that in the world of Speed Racer you can drive a car and change the world — if you drive it very, very fast.

  • whitney long

    In my opinion, this movie is not appropriate for children under 8 yrs. old. I took my pre-school age sons as they begged to see it after all the commercials and marketing hype everywhere. I assumed since it was rated PG that it would be okay. But boy, was I wrong! There is a LOT of fighting, violence and blood – not to mention bad language. The word d_mn and _ss were used several times as well as some name-calling. I cannot believe that this received a PG rating. My sons also wanted to see Iron Man but I took them to this instead thinking it wouldn’t be as bad – based simply on the PG rating. My mistake!
    The story line was hard to follow and it was over two hours long. My boys were ready to be out of there after an 1-1/2 hours. It is a very fast-paced, frenzied movie with LOTS of action. On a positive note, the visual effects and animation are super cool and stylized and the set design is lots of fun.

  • Nell Minow

    Thanks very much for this comment, Whitney. I’m glad we agree that this film is visually dazzling but not appropriate for kids under age 8 or so. Generally, PG movies are not preschooler-friendly. I appreciate your reaction very much and hope you will continue to let me know what you think about the movies you see.

  • M McMinn

    We took our 7 year old son to this movie and were horrified that this got a “PG” rating. The use of the middle finger, Bleeped out “S” word, multiple use of the “A” word and life like violence were too much for this rating. Should DEFINATLY be PG-13. I usually always check your site before seeing questionable movies with my kids, but felt confident based on trailers and marketing (along w/ a PG rating) that this was a safe film…boy was I wrong. I will not make that mistake again. I love the information you provide!

  • Asp Silvertip

    I loved this movie but, I think that it was definitely not suitable for children under the age of eight because of one thing, the middle finger, which could have been substituted with sticking out his tongue or a fist wave so, unless your children now not to do this, and you can trust them to not go around flipping people off and cussing… the special effects in this movie were amazing as well as the story line, for the older audience, you’ll love it!

  • John P

    Hi Nell! Do you know if the MPAA, NATO or CARA publishes their guidelines for ratings? Specifically, how many instances of a middle finger or bleeding-lip-face-punching scenes tip the scale from PG to PG-13? Perhaps it isn’t public and left to the panel vote by the CARA and that’s it? I remember that one F-word is ok in PG-13, but 2 or more, it goes R. Never found that in writing officially, though.
    I think this movie, Speed Racer, was appropriately rated PG based on the MPAA standard definitions ( and relative to movies that are assigned PG-13 today. PG isn’t a free pass for parents. It still requires consideration by parents before letting their kids view.
    I am a *HUGE* fan of the detail disclosures beneath the MPAA rating boxes which provides more details as to why the movie is rated what it is. However, I wish there was an easier way to let parents know /exactly/ what to expect in a movie without pre-screening it. Some content simply isn’t disclosed and causes these surprises and disagreement with the rating, even though it still fits the category.
    Speed Racer says beneath the rating box “Sequences of Action, Some Violence, And Brief Smoking”. I am wondering how hard it would be if the MPAA could enhance these further to say something like “Sequences of Action, Some Violence, Mild Swearing, A Gesture And Brief Smoking”.

  • Vince L

    I saw this movie and loved every minute of it. I agree with John P that a PG rating isn’t a free pass. I have a niece who will be turning seven soon and while I wouldn’t watch this movie with her, I would show her some of the original cartoons and if she liked it, I’d show her the movie when she’s a little older (unless her mom said it was okay before then). I feel that the ones who were shocked by the rating are overreacting. Considering that the Wachowskis could have easily darkened things here, especially based on their previous work, this is a very family-friendly film. But it’s important to know your kid and be aware of what they’re likely to get out of it.

  • daisy

    I’m very disappointed in the rating of this movie. To me, a PG rating means that grade school children ages 7-10 should be able to watch it. This movie is too violent for any 8 year old. It should have absolutely been rated PG-13.

  • Nell Minow

    Thanks, Daisy and everyone else. No, JohnP, the oracle at Delphi was transparent compared to the rating groups that look at film, television, and video games. They are very secretive (and very inconsistent). I am working on a blog post about the rating system, how it works and what it means, and how I evaluate the appropriateness of the movies I review, so stay tuned.

  • Kristen

    I was shocked when I took my 5 year old and eight year old to see this movie. My children were very excited to see this movie but it is too violent for children under 10. I thought it would be on the same order as the cartoon. The special effects are great but save this one for the older children and adults.

  • Chris

    I took my kids (ages 6 & 9) to see this movie today. We had to leave the theater, b/c my 9 year old was so unnerved by the violence. (piranah eating a finger, guns/shooting) My 6 year old was hanging in there, but when I asked her if it would be OK to leave (we were going to even if it weren’t) she emphatically said YES. I wish I had done more homework before this one. Unfortunately, there are no other choices out there right now for them at the movies. PG 13!!!!!!!!

  • Nell Minow

    Thanks very much, Chris. You really cannot rely on the MPAA rating system — what used to be PG-13 is now PG and what used to be an R is now PG-13. Please check my reviews and the comments here and you are most welcome to email me at for more information any time.

  • shawn

    iwent with my school 5-6 gradeiand watched it. now the 3-4 grade cant watch it because it is inappropiateand the kid flipped him off and said the “A”word like 3 times. shows a half a butt of a girl(and i am a boy) and some upper-body stuff

  • emily

    My 8 year old daughter and I enjoyed the movie for the most part, but we were both shocked at the amount of bad language and some of the violence.
    The cartoonish kung fu sequences were fine, but the “torture” of one of the drivers as well as the finger in the fish tank were too much for her.
    The language may have been “mild” as described here, but it was the quantity that we did not like–there were over 5 swear words, closer to 10.
    The language and the boy flipping the middle finger was not necessary, added nothing and in fact, given that this is supposed to be a family film, was distracting–
    It was visually interesting and action packed, but we both thought it was much more of a PG-13 than PG film.

  • Lisa

    We took our two children to this movie (ages 7 and 12). We got up and left after hearing multiple cuss words, covering our 7 year old’s eyes during the torture scene, watching the young boy flip someone off, etc…. We had no idea what we were walking into but we sure thought that it would be OK to take our kids too since it was called “Speed Racer” and it was rated PG – Boy were we wrong! It is a real shame that a Board of Parents (MPAA) would give this a PG rating. The theatre was filled with small children of all ages who learned some new, inappropriate words and gestures and felt the anxiety and fear of violence and threats. All so unnecessary and such a shame. Maybe the MPAA has no control over what goes into the making of a movie but if they would have given this movie (and many others) the ratings that they deserve, they would protect many children from being exposed to so many of these unhealthy actions and images. It may seem like all kids are doing it, saying it and seeing it but in actuality many parents are still trying to set good examples with healthy morals and values.

  • monkie

    I took my almost-7 year old son to see this. It was his very first PG movie, and I’ll admit mostly because I wanted to see it. Having read your review beforehand, I warned him that there would be fighting, etc. (“it’s all pretend”) and some rude words. What surprised me was that he recognized the middle finger gesture(!) and even commented to me that he would NEVER do something so rude as that. LOL – I guess my boy isn’t as sheltered as I had thought he was… I mean, at home we never even watch commercial TV – he’s only seen PBS kids – but he knew all of the words in the movie, even though I’ve never heard him use them. Not only was he unphazed by the violence and language, he gave me quite the learning experience. We had an interesting conversation in the car on the way home. He pretty much assumed that the fight scenes were from the world of make-believe, but was seriously interested in the designing of the car and whether the physics of driving upside-down and up a cliff face were possible.

  • Nell Minow

    Thanks so much, Monkie, Lisa, Emily, and Shawn. I am sorry to tell you that what used to get a PG-13 now gets a PG and what used to get an R now gets a PG-13. I am working on a blog post about the ratings system and some of my thoughts about it. Basically, the changes in the rating system reflect the changes in what is considered acceptable material on broadcast television, radio, and newspapers. As I am sure you have all noticed, that has coarsened considerably over the past few years (not to mention playgrounds, probably the source of Monkie’s son’s “education”).
    Words like a**, d***, h*** are considered acceptable for a PG, and I generally refer to them as “mild language.” Lisa, keep in mind that the MPAA is an organization created by and run by the movie studios, and is on their side, not the side of parents. That’s how I got started doing what I do.
    I hope the information I provide here — and the comments of other parents — will help Beliefnet readers make choices they can feel good about and avoid bad surprises and to help families do what Monkie described in having good conversations with their families about what they see. You are all more than welcome to write me anytime with comments, complaints, and suggestions.

  • Mary

    I went to see this (I’m in 6th grade) and it scared me so badly that I had to leave. I was there for about 30 minutes, and I had to close my eyes and leave the theater at the torture scene. We went to see Nim’s Island instead, which was a great movie.

  • Wendy

    I am so thankful for this website and all of the comments. My 5-yr. old is spending the night at my best friend’s house who has her step son this weekend. My son and her step son are best buds but his Dad has very different ideals as to what is appropriate for kids to view on t.v. or on the big screen. They had just rented Speed Racer for tonight and said they were so excited to watch it. I told them that we didn’t see it on the big screen for some reason but I couldn’t remember why. I knew there was something I didn’t like about that movie. The father begged me to let them see it. I told him I needed to research it first and I would call them back. I came home and went right to this website and knew instantly that my gut instinct was right. My son is only a 5 year old child and will have so much time in his life for violent movies. I find it very important to let our kids be kids. I e-mailed the Dad the link to all of these comments and told him that even if he doesn’t agree with my point of view, I hope he respects me. If noone is an advocate for our kids, who will be?
    Parents, stick to your guns. Our kids grow up way too fast now. I have two older girls who always come home and want to go and see some of the movies their friends are seeing. I explained our (their Dad and me) prospective to them and told them that they needed to enjoy being a child. I think they are finally getting it and have even commented that they actually like rules and feel protected! Keep advocating for your kids and don’t get bullied by other parents.
    Keep up the great work on this website!

  • Nell Minow

    Thanks so much, Wendy! This is just what I love to hear. Your kids will always be grateful that you let them be children and made them feel safe. I hope you will return to the site often and let us know what you think about the movies you and your family see.

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