Movie Review: Gran Turismo (2023)

Talk about “formula” racing! Neill Blomkamp’s true life wish fulfillment drama Gran Turismo (B) starts out so color-by-numbers it seems destined to lap endless circles; but polished production values, brisk action and a touching set of mentor/mentee performances lift the film into true crowd-pleasing territory. In fact, it’s the late-breaking sit-down-and-cheer underdog movie of the summer. This is basically a real-life update of ‘80s adventure The Last Starfighter; this go-around the film’s protagonist is obsessed with the titular PlayStation racing simulation game and is recruited into the world of actual professional race car driving. The movie has an ample supply of Top Gun and The Karate Kid tropes stuffed into it too but ultimately finds its own modern lane. Relative newcomer Archie Madekwe gives a winning performance playing real-life hero Jann Mardenborough, and David Harbour is a delight as his grizzled trainer Jack Salter. Less successful is Orlando Bloom in a thankless and underwritten role as the auto executive who hatches the notion of leveraging sim players to become real drivers. Djimon Hounsou and Geri Halliwell spice up their scenes with a few sensitive moments as the hero’s parents, although the plot doesn’t completely explain their sometimes odd detachment. The movie does a good job guiding casual sports fans into its racing milieu with pop-up graphics, and the directorial choices including nose-dives into the action on a variety of international tracks provide a propulsive you-are-there vibe. The movie’s assertion of believing in yourself plus its largely clean content (save for some final act profanity) make it an imminently watchable choice for family viewing. 

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