Thoughtful reviews, the Boulder film scene

" I can safely say at this point that we are lost. "
— Heather Donahue, The Blair Witch Project

MRQE Top Critic

Winsor McCay -- The Master Edition

A new DVD offers an opportunity to see films by a master of animation —Andrea Birgers (DVD review...)

Gertie the Dinosaur, born of Winsor McCay

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The headlights are on but nobody’s driving this cockamamie jalopy of a movie.

Obsolete Model

A $2.7 million investment up in the air
A $2.7 million investment up in the air

It’s as though Need for Speed was made following blueprints rather than a bona fide screenplay.

In that clinical spirit, then, here’s a bullet list of this movie’s parts:

  • Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul, TV’s Breaking Bad) is the “good guy”
  • To reinforce the fact Tobey is the good guy, when he speaks, he sounds like Batman (Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight, not Adam West)
  • Tobey recently lost his father (heart strings element #1)
  • Tobey lost his small town crush a while back to a wealthy competitor, Dino Brewster (heart strings element #2)
  • Dino (Dominic Cooper, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) has character flaws (hence, he’s the “bad guy”)
  • Add hot chick with British accent (gotta sex it up for the boys)
  • The same British hottie (Imogen Poots, Jane Eyre) speaks fluent car mechanic lingo (seriously, gotta really sex it up for the boys who stare at Pirelli calendars when they’re not playing racing video games or doing stuff “under the hood”)
  • Throw in a guy named Benny (Scott Mescudi, better known as rapper Kid Cudi), who steals and flies miscellaneous aircraft in order to provide his driving team with a bird’s eye view of the road conditions (comic relief!)
  • Tobey’s best friend (and brother to Tobey’s local flame previously extinguished) dies a horrible death during a senseless road race (the pylon... oops, that should be pile-on of heart-string tugging. Anguish. Torment. Tobey will feel it ALL in this motion picture!)
  • Tobey spends two years in the pen (classic passage of time to add epic scope)
  • Tobey drives a $2.7 million Mustang Shelby from New York to California (road trip!) in order to compete in a winner-take-all race to a lighthouse (symbolism) and to exact sweet, sweet Mother of Mary revenge on Dino

What’s missing? Let’s see... Oh yeah. They forgot to add a bullet point for fun.

Slow Lane Story

The movie Need for Speed is the kind of slog even the video games’ fans might find hard to complete. Maybe there should be a new genre to describe this cinematic hoop-dee: car-torture porn. It’s painful to watch so many cool cars meet a terrible fate.

The action is ludicrous and not particularly entertaining. As Benny hops from one aircraft to the next, thoughts of why police don’t bust him for theft come to mind, along with questions about why this punk doesn’t get busted for flying without a flight plan. He’s an unnecessary plot device; at least his antics catch up with him later in the film’s game.

And there’s also the question as to why a guy would spend $2.7 million on a car then have it driven from coast to coast in the span of 45 hours instead of ponying up the bucks to pay for a freight plane to safely and securely transport it overnight.

The answer, of course, is then there would be no movie, or at least it’d be a much shorter one.

And that would be a good thing.

What happens along the way? The Mustang takes flight in more ways than one, including dangling from a military helicopter while flying over the desert Southwest. It’s not fun or funny. It’s forehead-smacking ridiculous.

Caution: Stunts Are Dangerous

Given how the movie starts slow, with a stereotypical, borderline flat-out generic score by Nathan Furst (Act of Valor), as framed photographs of father Marshall and son fill the screen, there’s hope maybe Need for Speed is investing time in character development.

No doubt that’s what the blueprint would indicate.

Trouble is, Tobey isn’t really a character. As portrayed by Aaron Paul, Tobey is a nondescript shadow of a character. What happens to him and his friends is inconsequential, aside from the safety lesson tucked in at the end of the movie.

Yes. There really is a “don’t try this at home” title card before the end credits roll. Problem is, few people will actually see it given Need for Speed also saves the standard opening titles sequence until the story’s end - by the time the safety blurb appears, most of the audience has already hit high gear in the race to the exits.