Looking like one of those chintzy, clunky sports teleflicks produced on the cheap for ESPN, “Supercross: The Movie” tries but fails to interest us in the world of competitive motorcycle racing. The press materials inform us that Supercross is not only “the second-fasting-growing motor sport in the U.S., behind only NASCAR,” but is “where the money is,” prize-wise, but if that’s true, one has to wonder why this sort of semi-promotional picture (made in association with Clear Channel Entertainment Motor Sports) appears to have been made on a home-movie budget.
Certainly little cash could have been expended on the script, credited–if that’s the right word–to Ken Solarz and Bart Baker, from a story by Baker and Keith Alan Bernstein, which recycles every cliche one can imagine in this genre into a thoroughly indigestible farrago of familial melodrama, young-love soap opera, corporate skullduggery, and splashy race footage, coming out as a thoroughly laughable underdog-takes-the-gold saga. The centerpiece is a fraternal tale about the two mad-about-wheels Carlyle brothers, cautious, responsible K.C. (Steve Howey) and rebellious, chance-taking Trip (Mike Vogel), who spend their time alternately supporting and squabbling with one another. When K.C. is picked by company owner Clay Sparks (Robert Carradine) to serve as “wing man” for his preening son Rowdy (Channing Tatum) on the track, screening off other riders so that his boy can win and help the firm’s bottom line, the disappointed Trip, a “privateer” or non-factory rider, goes off on his own with the help of old-timer Earl Cole (Robert Patrick), and in a big competition takes a hit himself in order to save his older brother from disaster, winding up on crutches as a result. This all helps K.C. realize the error of his ways and, once free of his corporate commitments, he challenges Rowdy in the biggest race of all, in which he…well, I won’t “give away” the ending. (One or two of you may not have seen “Rocky” or the any of the hundreds of other movies following the same plot trajectory.) Each brother is provided with a romantic interest, too–K.C.’s is the rich but supportive Zoe (Sophia Bush) and Trip’s is Earl’s wrench-savvy daughter Piper (Cameron Richardson). And real-life track “star” Tyler Evans shows up as his bad-boy self to play K.C.’s racing rival.
There’s a certain klutzy charm to watching a movie as inept as this one go through its paces. The writing and direction (by one Steve Boyum) are terrible, but they’re matched by acting that’s all of high-school amateur-night quality. Howery is unrelievedly stiff as the uptight K.C., while Vogel’s attempt to impersonate a scruffy rebel is all empty poses. But one must have the greatest sympathy (or would contempt be more appropriate?) for veterans Patrick and Carradine, who can’t avoid the deep embarrassment a project like this entails. The latter doesn’t seem to mind, actually making himself noticeable by overdoing things; Patrick, on the other hand, who’s been trapped in stuff this awful before (“Double Dragon,” anyone?) tries to hide behind a beard and an impassive demeanor. Technically the movie, shot by William Wages, looks wretched; even the brutally-edited racing footage doesn’t impress, filmed as it is in high-gloss resolution and with frequent slow-motion intrusions. But some may appreciate the periodic shots of the behinds of nubile young women as they saunter away from the camera; the totally gratuitous lingering on their derrieres has no narrative point, of course, but it’s a virtual visual leitmotif. You can’t say the filmmakers don’t know where their target audience’s interests lie–in fast cycles first, booty second. (There seems to be no third place winner.)
If you’re interested in watching a movie about motorcycle racing, there’s a better one out there–Mark Neale’s documentary “Faster,” about the 2001-2002 season of the MotoGP circuit, which is now available on DVD. But you should certainly supercross this pathetic slice of hokum from your viewing list.