Grind (2003) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for crude humor, sexual content, and language
Running time: 105 min.
Cast: Mike Vogel, Vince Vieluf, Adam Brody, Joey Kern, Jennifer Morrison, Randy Quaid, Christopher McDonald
Director: Casey La Scala
Screenplay: Ralph Sall
Here's another classic example of a movie that had the potential to be something more but is crippled by the notion that they have to do what everyone else is doing, for fear that they will lose money. Ironically, by playing it safe, they end up missing most of the audience altogether. Somewhere in there is a decent story about a group of guys who just want to skateboard competitively, thinking they have the right stuff. There's a sweetness underneath, and a fine sense of camaraderie among the young men, but it's buried under a constant need to inject toilet humor and sexual innuendo whenever it hits its stride.
Basically, it's about a quartet of boys fresh from high school who go for broke and take road trips to skateboarding competitions trying to crash their way into the arena in any way they can. Mostly, they want to just want a shot with Jimmy Wilson, their skateboarding idol, seemingly too busy to handle all of the requests he is sent to watch everyone's performance tapes.
Unless you are a young skateboarding fanatic, there's probably not enough here to justify the time and money spent. There are some things the film does manage to do well, although I feel much of this might have been more by accident than by design. First, the cast has a good sense of chemistry, and you'd get the sense that the main leads became good friends during the making of the film the way they play so well off of each other. Some people might slam it for being rather plotless, but I personally found that to be another of its charms. Skateboarding is mostly a sport that has come of age through the determination and ingenuity of bored youth, so if the boys seem rather aimless, so should the movie. A film too spit-and-polished just wouldn't exemplify the sport at all.
There's moments when things click well, especially in the beginning scenes and as it approaches the finale. In between is quite a lot of filler, mostly involving seemingly unscripted moments of music video style montages of skateboard tricks and a hefty dose of bathroom jokes. Although there's probably enough skating to satisfy those looking for it, much of these scenes exist to push the soundtrack and other products (Sobe has generous placement throughout the movie.) It's a first-time directorial stint by Casey La Scala, producer of the teen flick What a Girl Wants, which should explain the overriding MTV mentality of the film's overall feel. Couple this with first-time screenwriting by longtime music producer Ralph Sall, and you can see why there's almost so moment of silence to be found anywhere in the film.
It's kind of a shame that they adhere to contemporary formula to this extent, as it could have been a decent film overall. The humor should have been more whimsical, instead of trying so hard for the easy laugh. The romance could have been a little sweeter, instead of a bundle of constipated emotions. The sport could have used a little more nostalgic qualities, instead of seeming mundane and filled with industry people who are only interested in money and self-aggrandizing motivations. They had the opportunity to do what surfing movies have done so well in making it seem like a sport you'd actually want to spend a lifetime doing, but instead it looks like the boys want to do it for the money more than anything else, and they aren't doing for the love as much as for the fact that they spent so much time doing it that they have no real marketable skills otherwise. The message you can carry from the film appears to be, "You might as well go for broke since you're going to end up broke anyway."
Skaters, especially the youngest set, will probably find it modestly entertaining, although it's the kind of movie you'll probably want to wait for home video to see...it's just not worth eight bucks. Others who live for crude humor might find a few laughs at all of the fart, poop and ass-crack jokes sprinkled liberally throughout most scenes. For the rest, Grind is a complete throwaway film, neither adequately representing the sport nor presenting itself well enough as a comedy to make a case for its existence other than to sell soundtracks and exploit a hot sport at the peak of its popularity.
©2003 Vince Leo