2003, PG-13, 100 min. Directed by Casey La Scala. Starring Mike Vogel, Adam Brody, Vince Vieluf, Joey Kern, Jason London, Jennifer Morrison, Bam Margera, Randy Quaid.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Aug. 15, 2003
Ah, for the days of Zorlac Skates, the Big Boys, and the Pflugerville ditch. But now my knees are shot, Dallas’ skater-god Jeff Phillips ate a bullet on Christmas Day 1993, and the Clown Ramp, like the Road Warrior, exists only in memories. C’est la guerre. After last year’s brilliant, sexy, perfect documentary on the birth of skateboarding culture – Stacy Peralta’s Dogtown and Z-Boys – everything else is bound to be a runner-up. Competing with those gravity-defying Super-8 shots of Tony Alva catching righteous air above some nameless SoCal swimming pool, with the pristine azure of the California sky above mirroring the bone-dry blue of the concrete below, is a fool’s errand, but skaters and skater fans are nothing if not willing to play the fool (who else would litter their slang with trick-describing phrases like "ollie," "fakie," and "McRad"?), sometimes wonderfully so. Grind, which follows a fictional group of four young Chicago-area skaters as they take off one summer in a rickety van seeking glory and sponsorship at the heels of the "skating legend" Jimmy Wilson (London), is eager to please, but it’s so lacking in real-world skate politics that it more resembles the chugging PG-13 mediocrity of Top 40 pop-punk-lite than the hardcore Black Flagisms of Peralta’s scathingly real doc. It’s a film about "sk8trs," not skaters, a differentiation that becomes all too apparent in the woefully unexciting sequences of actual ramp work. Director La Scala shoots various episodes of skate-park freestyling and competition vertical way too close-in; he rarely if ever pulls back far enough to appreciate the sudden, exhilarating loss of gravity at the apex of a boarder’s catching air. It’s like an American action director futilely trying to ape the fight-sequence coverage of some wildass Hong Kong auteur, and it doesn’t even come close to transposing the shriek and thrum of rock-hard Kryptonics and battered Indies on rampwood. That said, Grind is a marginally valiant effort nonetheless, leavened by a scene-stealing performance from Vince Vieluf as slackerish skater-rat Matt, who frequently, and without warning, bursts into the sort of inopportune staccato laughter you’d sooner expect from a gutshot Woody Woodpecker than a burly skate-goof. Frankly, if you want to catch the real deal these days all you have to do is turn on an episode of MTV’s Jackass, a show which perfectly captures the warped, sex-mad, pro-wastoid abandon of uncensored skater philosophy in all its ragged, screw-the-system glory. Sponsorship? We don’t need no steenkin’ sponsorship, man.