The Austin Chronicle

Race the Sun

Rated PG, 100 min. Directed by Charles T. Kanganis. Starring Halle Berry, James Belushi, Casey Affleck, Eliza Dushku, Anthony Ruivivar, Steve Zahn, J. Moki Cho, Dion Basco.

REVIEWED By Hollis Chacona, Fri., March 29, 1996

You might as well call this movie Hot Runnings. Once again, a troop of misfits band together to accomplish the extraordinary. You know the cast of characters: the fat smart guy, the macho tough guy, the quiet dreamer, and the clown. As a bonus here, you get the shy sweet girl, the smart sweet girl, the tough girl, and the ditzy flirt. They are the lolo, the lowly local kids from Kona Pali High School who have never accomplished anything in their lives and don't ever really expect to. Until, that is, the enthusiasm of a beautiful teacher (Berry) and the condescending taunts of the snobby preppies from Sutcliffe Academy combine to inspire them to attempt the unthinkable. They will build a solar-powered car and race against Sutcliffe for the honor of representing Hawaii at the World Solar Challenge in Australia. They win, of course, and head down under for the grueling, cross-continent race where the road temperatures reach 120 (and the pressures of working together in the heat and close quarters test the mettle of each participant and bring everyone, eventually, to a clearer understanding of self and others. In short, Race the Sun falls into the seen one, seen 'em all category of movies where the underdog may not win, but always gets the last bark. You might hope for more from scriptwriter Barry Morrow, whose original screenplay for Rain Man won an Oscar. I wish that he would have, at least, made the enemy of the piece someone other than a caricature villain with a Germanic accent. But Race the Sun didn't test my endurance as much as I feared -- thanks, in large part to J. Moki Cho's Gilbert Tutu, the gigantic computer geek whose incandescent smile uses every square inch of his enormous face, and whose brave, silly, gentle heroics give this gossamer film its substance. Competently directed and acted, Race the Sun moves right along and, like Cool Runnings, has an undeniably sweet quality that makes it easier to swallow than you might expect.

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