Movie Review — “F9: The Fast Saga”

Here it is, at long last, the looniest tune in this “car toon” saga.

More characters, more “Bugs Bunny physics,” more epic stunts, more spectacular nonsense, “F9” roars into theaters the perfect marriage of “fan service” and “character service.” Everybody gets a funny line, everybody gets a close-up or three.

They added another Oscar winner to the line-up, Dame Helen Mirren. They brought in more beefcake — John Cena.

And Universal’s ever-expanding “Fast and Furious” universe brings back most everybody who’s ever gotten behind the wheel in these loopy action extravaganzas, which makes for an insanely cluttered, ungainly movie with a lot of guys, more than a few gals, and a whole lot of cars.

There are supercars and hyper-cars, a few with badges most people will recognize (Toyota, Acura, for instance. Ever heard of an Apollo?). But the only wheels that matter are Dodge Chargers, a Pontiac Fiero and a lowly Chevy Nova .

Alas, There is Only One Jeep. OK, there’re two, but I just wanted to use the line.

Anything to avoid talking about the plot, which involves more supervillainy, a stolen gadget, a satellite, trips to Central America and Edinburgh, London to Tbilisi, car chases out of “Speed Racer” and action beats out of bad Bond films.

“Moonraker,” are you blushing?

There’s more back story on the importance of “family” to Dom Torreto (Vin Diesel) in an opening flashback where we see the day his dad died on the track.

“It’s not about being the stronger man, it’s about being the bigger one.”

Nobody’s bigger than Diesel, although Cena makes a fitting foe, throw-weight wise. A paler version of The Rock.

Dom’s always telling biker brawler Letty “Be careful.” Letty (Michelle Rodriguez, the emotional and acting “heart” of this franchise) always laughs that off.

“Careful’s when you get HURT!”

Tyrese Gibson‘s Roman states the obvious, that nobody on their team ever gets “so much as a scratch” in these movies. “We’re not NORMAL.”

He’s leaving out the fact that nobody — almost nobody — ever dies in the damned movies. Villains (Charlize Theron) never go away, dead characters (Sung Kang is back on the payroll, and back among the living as Han) rarely stay dead. And if there was a way they could bring Paul Walker back to life, they sure as shooting would.

Ludacris is back as tech-nerd Tej, bouncing jokes and ideas off of Roman.

Jordana Brewster returns, and Tokyo drifter Lucas Black, and on and on it goes. Which is literally the case in a movie with all these characters, all these closeups and little “real” action in the middle acts. Even fans who can’t get enough will be tested at this leaden-not-lead-footed running time.

Like the lesser Bond films, there’s little point in beating this up for having mediocre acting, a crap script but wonderful stunts and chases. “F9” is what it is.

I laughed at some of the lunacy, found myself checking my watch by the third act’s inevitable overkill. But if you can’t see the fun in Helen Mirren taking the wheel of a purple Noble supercar and one-handing it — backwards — through the darkened streets of Olde London Towne, this isn’t for you.

As they must have taught her at the New College of Speech and Drama in London, or in St. Bernard’s High School for Girls, “Drive it like you stole it,” sister.

MPA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and language

Cast: Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, John Cena, Charlize Theron, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Jordana Brewster, Helen Mirren and Kurt Russell.

Credits: Directed by Justin Lin, script by Daniel Casey and Justin Lin. A Universal release.

Running time: 2:25

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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