XKCD Unpopular Positive Opinion Challenge: Speed Racer (2008)

When I saw the Unpopular positive opinion challenge on xkcd, I scrolled through my movie log and looked up a few scattered titles to see what their scores were on Rotten Tomatoes.

The challenge is to find a movie that…

  • you genuinely like (not “so bad it’s good”)
  • came out in your adult life post-2000, and
  • is rated below 50% on Rotten Tomatoes

I didn’t find many low-rated movies that I strongly disagree about. The exception is Speed Racer (2008).

Yes, I love Speed Racer.

The critics’ score is 40%, but I think it’s amazing. Not perfect, but certainly remarkable.

Here’s my laudatory and relatively laconic post on Speed Racer.

I’m not the only one who thinks Speed Racer was unjustly dismissed.

Tor.com says it’s “an overlooked masterstroke”
“I literally want to ingest this film and somehow incorporate it into my being, have it leak out through my pores, and then coat the world in its light. I want to feel the way that movie makes me feel every damn day.” Amen.

Variety lists 10 reasons it flopped, ending with “The movie was ahead of its time.” The article, published in 2008, records an even lower Rotten Tomatoes rating of 35%, so times have caught up, a little.

Currently the Rotten Tomatoes audience score is 60%, which is not super high, but substantially higher than the critics’ rating of 40%, and high enough that the icon is a red tomato and not a green splat.

Am I biased?

You could argue that any opinion is the result of a person’s collection of biases, but that doesn’t get you anywhere.

I’m a big fan of The Matrix—and who isn’t? It’s rated 88% by critics and 85% by audiences—but that doesn’t mean I automatically like whatever the Wachowskis make; I freely admit that Jupiter Ascending (rated 27%) was an awful disappointment, lacking even the creativity and wonder that made Valerian and the… Whatever of Whatever at least worth complaining about.

As it happens, I do like car racing movies. I liked Death Race (2008), rated 42%, and Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005), rated 41%.

If anything, I’m biased *against* Speed Racer for its “businessmen are evil” message, which you’d think Hollywood critics would scramble to applaud. If I squint a little, I can see it as a movie that condemns fraud, not a movie that condemns corporations or money per se. The emotional payoff is the triumph of justice—that’s what I love.

Other critically unacclaimed movies I like:

There aren’t any other low-rated movies on my movie log list that I would go to bat for, but I do have opinions that are more positive than average about a handful of them.

I probably have a more favorable view of movies pitched at kids and teens than critics do: I was nervous about rewatching Hook (1991), rated 26%, but I still like the plot and Robin Williams’ performance. I liked Divergent (2014), rated 42%, though not as much as I liked the book.

Maybe I also give greater weight to cool sci-fi premises than critics do: I liked Paycheck (2003), rated 27%, and Titan AE (2000), rated 51%.

(I take it back, I would go to bat for Titan AE… if it qualified for the challenge, which it doesn’t. It’s not post-2000, and it’s not below 50%. Just barely, in both cases!)

Titan AE has beautiful visuals, as does Oblivion (2013), rated 53%.

Meanwhile, among Tom Cruise movies, how is it that Jerry Maguire is rated 83% while Top Gun is only 55%? Ah, well, the audience rating for Top Gun is also 83%, which I suppose is why, 34 years later, we’re getting a sequel…