If you were bemused to discover that the Wachowski brothers were going to follow up their 'Matrix' series by bringing a 1960s Japanese animated show to the big screen, then that feeling is going to last longer than any of the 'dramatic' pauses in the Keanu Reeves-starring trilogy.

Obsessed by cars and competition from his early years, Speed Racer (Hirsch) has followed his late driver brother Rex (Porter) and vehicle designer father Pops (Goodman) onto the track. He's a massive talent, but as he discovers that's not the most important thing in his chosen sport. It's not luck either: the races are being rigged by a cabal of big business and underworld figures who've bought most of the drivers. With the help of enigmatic loner Racer X (Fox) can Speed clean-up the sport, prove himself to be a real champion and solve the mystery of his brother's death?

Massive plaudits must go to the Wachowskis and their creative time for making 'Speed Racer' so visually stunning - the dropping of actors into animated backdrops, the designs, colours and flair are so powerful that a sack load of technical Oscars seems a certainty.

But like a great many other blockbuster directors before them, the Wachowskis have allowed themselves to be filed under 'If Only They'd Done As Much Work on the Script'.

'Speed Racer' is too long and too chaotic, has too many characters - too few of them compelling - and could be too confusing for very young viewers. The Wachowskis repeat their 'Matrix' error of trying to cram too much into the storyline and the result is a film that starts, stops and splutters regularly.

Frustratingly, you can see a better film trying to get out: the good one-liners and comedy between Speed Racer's brother Spritle (Litt) and his simian sidekick Chim-Chim (Willy) had a lot more mileage in them; the chemistry between Speed Racer and Racer X was there to be developed and the film's message, that winning at all cost's isn't winning, shouldn't have got lost between the visuals and velocity.

In the end this is an oddity: a feast for the eyes but barely a snack for the heart. You can't see the Wachowskis making three of it - or many wanting them to.

Harry Guerin

Check out our 'Speed Racer' premieres gallery here.