Down and Derby

The Pinewood Derby is one of the rights of passage of Cub Scouts worldwide. With the help of their fathers, they make little wooden racers and race them down ramps. It sounds simple, but add in competition and the whole event becomes wonderfully infectious. The enthusiasm and joy did not translate over to Down and Derby, a "family friendly" film written and directed by Eric Hendershot (Clubhouse Detectives in Scavenger Hunt, Horse Crazy). The film does make an amusing statement on how parents will sometimes co-opt events from their children. They will take something fun, and turn it into something competitive. Otherwise, it's a pretty bland slice of film better suited as direct-to-video. The subject matter and the way Hendershot presents it does seem a bit strange. How many kids will want to watch a movie about the Derby? Cub Scouts are not necessarily the 'coolest' kids out there, and girls will have little to no interest in this film. Worse, the film focuses on the parents, more specifically the dads. How many little boys want to watch a film about dads? Probably few.

Most of the adults act like buffoons. The upcoming Pinewood Derby is a chance for Phil Davis (Greg Germann, Joe Somebody, Down to Earth) to one-up childhood rival Ace Montana (Marc Raymond). For most of their lives, Phil was always second place to Ace. When his Brady (Adam Hicks, The 12 Dogs of Christmas) brings home the racer set, Phil's wife Kim (Lauren Holly, What Women Want, Any Given Sunday) thinks it's a great chance for father and son to bond. Instead, Phil's new passion consumes everything. He spends all day building an impressive test track in his bedroom, annoying Kim and ignoring his huge new project at work. His friends Big Jimmy (Perry Anzilotti, Luck of the Draw, Spirit Ditch) and Blaine (Ross Brockley, The Private Public) are much the same. Each one, hoping to build the perfect racer, becomes paranoid of the other, and eventually drives their families away.

The bulk of the film deals with Phil and his attempts to build his racer. Hendershot eventually shifts gears and Phil and company work together and get into more sitcom-ish shenanigans. Everything plays out like a live action cartoon, except it's not funny. Ooh, Phil doesn't shave because he's so engrossed in his racer! And they all eat canned pasta that gets all over their faces! Everything is pretty dull and uninspired, and it's sad seeing somebody like Holly do something like this. Germann plays the same type of role he did in Ally McBeal, but absent the sophistication of that, his antics look very out of place. Hendershot adds in a nice moral lesson about the importance of family, but it comes so late in the film that it feels like an afterthought.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 34 minutes, Rated PG for some crude humor, sensuality, and brief mild language.

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