'Grind' has charm all its own
By Margaret A. McGurk
The Cincinnati Enquirer
|GRIND (Rated PG-13) Two and One-Half Stars (Fair-to-Good)
Four skateboarders hit the pro trail in hopes of making it big. Though not much more than a rambling patchwork of jokes, stunts and rock 'n' roll, it has its freewheeling charms. Mike Vogel, Vince Vieluf, Adam Brody, Joey Kern. Directed by Casey La Scala. Warner Bros., 105 minutes.
But as a slice of freewheeling fantasy, it puts across its own brand of loosey-goosey charm.
The story follows a road trip by four guys who would rather skateboard than get jobs after they graduate from high school.
Eric Rivers (Mike Vogel) is the most ambitious skateboarder of the bunch. But lacking commercial sponsorship, his prospects are dim at best.
So he talks his buddies into trailing pro skateboarder Jimmy Wilson (Jason London) around the country on the extreme-sports circuit. The idea is to somehow show off enough skills to impress Wilson and win his help in landing a sponsor.
The scheme is as hare-brained as it sounds, as the guys soon discover. No matter, they have plenty to occupy their time being movie stereotypes: Matt (Vince Vieluf of "Grounded for Life") is the raging nutball whose obnoxious patter fails to impress the ladies. Dustin (Adam Brody of Fox's critically acclaimed "The O.C.") is the wry, responsible type who has to be dragged away from his boring summer job. Sweet Lou (Joey Kern of "Cabin Fever") is the laid-back chick magnet who also owns a van.
On the road, their woes mount rapidly. The pro skateboarders pay no attention whatsoever to the wannabes, the money runs out, the women are crazy, and the van is stolen.
They end up taking refuge with Matt's father (Randy Quaid), who runs a clown college. It's a strange interlude that would be funnier if it weren't so awkwardly contrived.
"Grind" is more relaxed when it sticks to its skateboarding guns; the skateboarding scenes are fun, sometimes funny and nicely staged by producer and first-time director Casey La Scala despite obvious low-budget limitations. The four young leads also seem to relax and grow more appealing as the film progresses. Eventually, they become more like recognizable people and less like the cartoon characters.
Jennifer Morrison plays Jamie, one of the women the boys encounter on the skateboard circuit. She is also the only female in the movie who is not just a decoration or a joke, and she conducts herself with commendable poise.
The movie boasts a number of cameos from the likes of Tom Green, Dave Foley and Bobcat Goldthwaite. More to the point, it enlists skateboard stars Bob Burnquist, Pierrre-Luc Gagnon and Bucky Lasek to play themselves. It also helps that top pros Brian Patch, Brian Sumner, Matt Ball and Chad Shettler handle skating duties by doubling for the lead actors whenever the story called for them to skateboard.
For all its faults, I suspect "Grind" is going to win a lot of hearts among wheelie types. Who knows? Twenty years from now, it could mean as much to aging skateboarders as, say, "Caddyshack" does to golf-infected baby boomers.
Rated PG-13 for crude humor, sexual content, language.