'Speed Racer: The Next Generation'

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The classic 1960s adventure series "Speed Racer" is back in a big way for today's teens. To say it has legs is an understatement. This spirited animated series from Lionsgate is just the tip of the iceberg, since it will be followed by a Lionsgate DVD release on Tuesday and then a live-action Warner Bros. feature film May 9. Nickelodeon's "Speed Racer: The Next Generation" is a superb way to kick off the return of the iconic "Speed Racer" and bring it up to snuff for contemporary kids.

Kicking off its 26-episode series with a 90-minute premiere, this go-round of the venerable racing series centers on a teen who was orphaned as a baby and arrives at the prestigious Racing Academy to find he is the son and nephew of some legendary racers. Lots of action follows, with the usual kid-friendly accoutrements: lots of evil schemes and good buddies to help our hero overcome them.

Creator Larry Schwarz infuses the series with solid characters who don't just speak out of the sides of their mouths or talk into thin air.

The animation is first-rate, and that's just for starters. Director Stephen Moverley takes Justin Gray and James Palmiotti's substantial script and moves the action along quickly without leaving character and plot behind.

The series also has a vintage feel: The characters and dialogue easily could jump back into the classic images created almost 40 years ago. This isn't your garden-variety blast of mindless animated antics; the main character, Speed (Kurt Csolak), actually has a goal he wants to achieve. He wants to be the best racer he can be — if nothing else, then simply to be the best man he can be, period. Kids will know right away that he'll get there. (partialdiff)
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