Grind Movie Review

Think "Blue Crush" without water -- or awesome surfing footage, likable characters with real personalities, beautiful girls in bikinis or anything else worth watching -- and I guarantee whatever you have in mind is still better than "Grind."

A skateboarding road-trip flick that will bore real skateboarders silly (and I should know -- I've been one since the late '70s), it includes barely 10 minutes of badly-edited actual boarding, less than half of which features the main characters (no-name actors using obvious stunt doubles), who in the course of the movie perform only one trick (at the very end) that's beyond the abilities of any dedicated junior high school punk with a modicum of talent.

Built on the "Crush" story template, the rest of the movie's 100-minute run-time is spent following four witless, college-age pro-tour wannabes around the country as they stalk and hassle the current king of sponsored skateboarding (Jason London) to look at a videotape of their supposedly fancy footwork.

Ambitious fast-food employee Eric (scruffy, pretty, vacant Mike Vogel) doesn't even have any real plan to get noticed or find a stake-industry patron. But that doesn't stop him and his pudgy, vulgar, slacker-stoner-clown buddy Matt (Vince Vieluf) from recruiting a friend with a van (Joey Kern) and a nerdy pal (Adam Brody) with a college fund to burn in haphazard pursuit of an unlikely dream.

Wholly inept producer-cum-director Casey La Scala doesn't even try to make us interested in these bogus boarders before dragging us along on their listless adventure, the only entertainment value of which comes from laughing at Kern's disco-era-throwback performance as a PG-13 lothario. Looking like a 10-cent Matthew McConaughey version of the "cool" kid who came to pitch for the "Bad News Bears," he sports wispy facial hair, aviator shades, ugly shirts and an in-script-only sexual charisma that gets scantily-clad girls to do his bidding when he walks up to them and says "You wanna make out?"

A few attempts at wacky interludes (Bobcat Goldthwait cameos as the manager of a sleazy motel, Tom Green is a Rastafarian skate shop owner) fill in for plot when the foursome isn't trying to lie their way into various competitions, where teenage boys often come up to them and say "Dude, you guys are great!" But the audience is never privy to whatever it is that impresses these kids. Until the last reel La Scala doesn't actually show Eric and Co. skating, except in unimpressive 30-second, handy-cam music-video snippets featuring those blatant stunt doubles with different haircuts and body types. What little skating there is in "Grind" might as well be taken from stock footage of amateur half-pipe competitions.

Throw in a rivalry with a hotshot team of ghetto-poser suburban skaters in baby-blue jumpsuits (real boarders would never tolerate such clowns) and a chick-with-a-stick love interest (Jennifer Morrison) for Eric, and the picture's pathetic formula is complete. But even formula doesn't explain gaffes like the fact that these guys, supposedly avid followers of pro-skating, need the girl to tell them where the tour is going next.

Skateboarding has always been a feeble hook for teen-targeted feature films, but even stinkers like 1989's "Gleaming the Cube" (starring Christian Slater) had cool, creative stunts (skating under a moving semi on the freeway). And in the wake of last year's exhilarating, cinematically creative documentary "Dogtown and Z-Boys" -- about the birth of skateboarding culture in the 1970s -- "Grind" just looks all the more half-assed.

Rent "Dogtown," watch any 30 seconds at random, and you'll find more thrills and personality than in this entire movie all put together.

Comments

Grind Rating

" Zero "

Rating: PG-13, WIDE: Friday, August 15, 2003

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