NASCAR 3D: The IMAX Experience

Let me begin by saying that I am not a fan of NASCAR. This doesn't mean I dislike it. I'm just indifferent to it. And from what I've seen, there seem to be two types of people: those who are obsessed with it, and those like myself. For the latter, their contact with NASCAR has pretty much been limited to the death of Dale Earnhart, when Jeff Gordon hosted Saturday Night Live, and those ubiquitous commercials for Coke before most movies. As a film, NASCAR 3D: The IMAX Experience serves as both a quick tutorial on NASCAR and an extended commercial for the sport. Fans of the sport will love it, but it probably won't convert any non-fans. The real reason to watch it is because of the 3D IMAX technology, used beautifully but not really necessary for the subject matter.

I worship at the feet of IMAX. Their films may be short, but the images are so huge, crisp and beautiful that I can watch it all day. For NASCAR 3D, it means that we all get to sit and watch racing up close, and at times feel like part of the race itself. To this effect, the cameras were mounted on the stock cars, giving us a first-person view of the action. It's not as spectacular as the various nature documentaries, but still looks impressive. Otherwise, the main use that director Simon Wincer (The Young Black Stallion, Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles) has for the 3D imaging is to project two mini-television screens in front of the audience to highlight various racing footage or other miscellaneous things.

The weakest parts of Wincer's film are the historical recreations. The recurring theme is that the 3D is awesome, everything else is fair. Narrator Keifer Sutherland (Phone Booth, Behind the Red Door) takes us on a quick jaunt to the past, showing the development of NASCAR from a bunch of normal guys who wanted to see who was the fastest to the multimillion dollar industry that it is today. The largest difference between NASCAR and other professional sports is that the racers are extremely accessible to fans. Gordon, Dale Earnhart Jr., Richard Petty, and every other driver may have millions of bucks, but they still take a lot of time to hang out with their fans. Driving seems to be in their blood, since many are second or even third generation racers.

The rest of the film is a glittering commercial. Sutherland introduces the various teams and star drivers and how the season works. Each driver's jumpsuit and car is completely adorned with company logos, which happen to fill the giant IMAX screen also. Each team headquarters is open and accessible to the public, and surely has lots of gift shops. But, this is the way of professional sports, and the fans don't seem to mind. And man, those cars go fast.

Gerf Rates It: Okay.
40 minutes, Rated PG for some crash scenes

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