[Screen It]

(2005) (Steve Howey, Mike Vogel) (PG-13)

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Drama: Two brothers overcome various obstacles as they try to succeed in the sport of Supercross racing.
"Motocross was our life." For California-based brothers Trip (MIKE VOGEL) and K.C. (STEVE HOWEY) Carlyle, nothing matters so much as making good on their dead biker dad's dream to become champion Supercross racers. Trip rides like his father, a "free flyer," while K.C. is an old school rider who "plays it safe." This difference is figurative as well as literal, in the ways they approach their sport and their lives.

By day the brothers share duties in a pool cleaning business; this occasions K.C.'s meeting a rich-girl law student, Zoe (SOPHIE BUSH), with whom he develops a cursory relationship. Once he starts racing Supercross (many riders at once over an arranged course in an arena for screaming crowds), she cheers him on.

Highly competitive with each other, the brothers take different paths to their goal: K.C. plays by the rules (a more "old school" racer) and takes a "factory ride," a corporate sponsored position, racing as a "blocker" for the team's star, Rowdy (CHANNING TATUM). Both ride for Team Nami, a company owned by Rowdy's father, Clay (ROBERT CARRADINE).

On the other side of the film's simplistic divide is Trip, riding as a "privateer," under the auspices of Hogs' Heaven, a small, un-corporate outfit owned by Earl (ROBERT PATRICK). Trip also develops a romance with Earl's daughter Piper (CAMERON RICHARDSON), and exchanges glances with her brother Owen (AARON CARTER), initially identified as Hogs' Heaven's best rider. He hen essentially disappeared from the film once Trip begins racing for the team.

As the brothers compete, they argue occasionally (at their shared apartment), and eventually realize they both want to win races and also do it without corporate sponsorship, to stay true to their dad's dream. They work together -- playing it safe but also free flying -- to make this happen.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
"Motocross is our life." So begins the saga of the brothers Carlyle. With their revered biker dad dead of unknown causes, narrator Trip (Mike Vogel) and older brother K.C. (Steve Howey) are left to fend for themselves and seek fame as great racers. They do so against a spectacular California backdrop, scooting and flying their bikes with the sort of ridiculous fearlessness that afflicts boys in sports action movies.

To its credit, the made-for-peanuts "Supercross: The Movie" is modest of ambition. Like the musicals of old, it arranges a loose-goosey plot in order to showcase a series of fabulous dance numbers. Here, the moves involve motorbikes and sand, smash cuts and frequent slow motion. Essentially, they want to make a move, from Motocross to Supercross, where the money is.

Both gifted racers, they're also conveniently opposite in temperament and appearance. Tall and dark, K.C. rides "old school," according to Trip, playing it safe, whereas sandy-haired, slight-bodied Trip takes after their father, a "frequent flyer," who relishes catapulting himself-and-vehicle into the air, spinning and twisting until landing just hard enough to jolt your teeth fillings a bit. Yeah, "We're tight," asserts Trip, "But that doesn't mean we're not competitive."

Dude, they compete like crazy. Following a stunning first outing at a public race, they're both noted by a corporate outfit, Team Nami, owned by the odious Clay (Robert Carradine) and starring Clay's bald, inked, and utterly egomaniacal son Rowdy (Channing Tatum).

Unlike the brothers, who mostly have each other's backs, Rowdy expects all to bow down, including his designated "wingman," the kid his dad hires to block other riders from threatening Rowdy's chances to win his races. Though Trip is the more daring, more amazing racer, Team Nami goes with K.C. more dependably obedient. When they tell him to look out for Rowdy, that's what he does. Briefly.

At first, K.C. thinks this is the way the "factory ride" is supposed to go. The tradeoff for big money sponsorship -- "purple superhero suits," new tires, perfectly tuned and maintained engines -- and he chastises his little brother for being selfish and irresponsible, for being stuck cleaning pools (the business they share at film's start), and not appreciating the sizeable cash flow that Nami provides. As the brothers share an apartment, and a small one at that, K.C. feels entitled to rip Trip for not carrying his end, and Trip feels obligated to clap back. Yes, it's on -- the competition part of the movie.

The other, vaguely romantic, part is sort of framed by this part, that is, each brother finds the perfect female complement to his reductive role. So, K.C., the sell-out (at least for a while) woos a rich girl, Zoe (Sophia Bush), a dark and striking law student whose family owns one of the mansions where the boys clean pools.

And Trip finds a scrappy girl down at the track, Piper (Cameron Richardson), blond, yellow-suited, mechanically inclined, and oh yes, very athletic. She's also a great jumper on her bike: when she does an amazing 360 degree flip in the air, she explains it: "You just have to commit." Even Trip -- not the sharpest nail in the box -- figures out that this is metaphorical instruction for his relationship skills. (As Piper aptly puts it, Trip is a "typical guy, when it comes to the real deal, they're all duh.")

Piper's dad Earl (Robert Patrick, the T-1000 himself, looking vaguely uninterested during the reaction shots that make up the bulk of his role) provides Trip with a vehicle. He also secures Trip's opposition to K.C., class- and morality-wise. Earl has a little company called Hogs' Heaven, and knew Trip's dad back in the day, when they were bikers. (Strangely, Earl has a son who starts the film as an excellent racer, young Owen [Aaron Carter], but he's almost instantly vanquished from the movie once Tip steps up.)

And so Earl plays mentor, making Trip a "privateer," that is, not sold out, a term the race announcer uses frequently. (This announcer actually just narrates the film: you could shut your eyes and know when which rider is looking at what during each race, and you'd know all the emotional stakes, who's dissing whom, before it starts -- the guy is very helpful.)

Both the girlfriends need to work a little to make their boys appreciate them. They are, after all, motorcycle boys, free of girly influences, save for the many short-shorted beauties who offer up their cleavage for autographs. (No mothers are in sight in this movie, but a pile-on of dads, including the dead one, the bad one, and the good one.) The girls also underline the film's interest in class. Rowdy's the bad upper class; both Piper and Trip come from "chopper trash."

When Zoe stands by the rail cheering on K.C. (like Earl, her usual frame in the film is reacting to something the boys are doing on the track), she's approached by a blond, who asks "Who do you belong to?" Zoe, lawyer in training and quite wealthy, thank you, rephrases quaintly: "I'm dating K.C." With that, the girl reads her out, calling Zoe "One of those 'I don't belong to anyone' chicks. Your shoes cost more, but you're still one of us."

She isn't really, except in the way Marlene Dietrich was "one of us" among the Arab women walking after the French Legionnaires in "Morocco". Still, it's an instructive distinction to make, as the most important difference here is between boys and girls. Piper rides beautifully, but she'll never be "famous." This film rates as a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed August 16, 2005 / Posted August 17, 2005

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