Need for Speed is no Cannonball Run II. You could even argue it’s no Speed Zone (which replaced Burt Reynolds and company with SCTV vets John Candy, Eugene Levy, and Joe Flaherty along with a host of lesser-known stars for a forgettable third Cannonball Run film). Loosely based on the popular video game franchise, Need for Speed stars Aaron Paul as kick-ass small-time racer and mechanic Tobey Marshall whose rivalry with his old girlfriend’s (Dakota Johnson) new boyfriend (Dominic Cooper) ends with him serving two years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
Recently released, and with the help of his friends (Scott Mescudi, Rami Malek, Ramon Rodriguez) and a new love interest (Imogen Poots) providing a top-grade car, Tobey will try to settle the score on the road by breaking parole (and dozens of traffic laws) to earn a spot in a super-secret race on the West Coast held annually by a reclusive millionaire (Michael Keaton). To get there, however, he and Julia (Poots) will have to survive the trip across country after his rival posts a bounty to make sure Tobey never makes it to the starting line.
A dumb and incredibly lazy film, Need for Speed is far too slow moving for a race film. The film spends 40 minutes or so on set-up, and nearly the entire rest of the film before getting to the race we actually want to see. Along the way Need for Speed spends far too much time creating an unwinable situation for our “hero,” who of course will overcome the odds, while creating a national manhunt for a dangerous man who that apparently is staffed by the rejects from the Police Academy films (except during the final race where all the sudden the cops appear competent for the first time in the entire film). In an age of satellites, GPS, and being able to look out your window and see a distinctive car diving consistently far over the speed limit (while occasionally crashing into various objects) I have a hard time believing Tobey could have made it all the way to California (where the police knew he was going).
Aaron Paul makes for a bland leading man, and his friends are all one-not sidekicks who manage to desperately squeak out a laugh now and then. Poots has some nice moments here and there (although certainly not enough for me to recommend seeing the movie, even for her biggest fans) as the film’s only charming character, and she even manages a passable (if inexplicable) chemistry with our leading man. The cars are the stunts are the film’s biggest stars, but even they struggle to shine in the shit storm they must drive through to reach the finish line.
I know I saw the film in 3D but I can’t explain why. Honestly, the post-conversion 3D is nothing more than a money grab as there is not a single racing scene enhanced by the upgrade. The games and Top Gun quote (which I’m hoping becomes a thing as I expect to see films entitled “Take Me to Bed or Loose Me Forever,” “Talk to Me Goose,” and “Your Ego is Writing Checks Your Body Can’t Cash” in the near future) the movie was based on may be fun, but the movie version of Need for Speed crashes and burns.