By Pete Vonder Haar | August 21, 2005

Like so many “extreme” sports before it, supercross has finally gotten a movie made in its honor. As is usually the case, somebody in Hollywood probably saw the revenues coming in for sports merchandise and assumed, correctly, that teenage boys would be only too happy to spend some of that money on a movie ticket. “Hey,” they figured, “If they sat through the likes of Blue Crush and Grind, they’ll sit through anything.”

That legendary adolescent tolerance for garbage may be severely tested by “Supercross,” however, which is a spectacularly lousy effort even by the relatively forgiving genre rules of the sports movie. “Supercross” is our first cinematic look at off-road cycling since 1977’s “Sidewinder 1” (and not counting the efforts pandering to the 18-24 demographic found in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle and xXx). Supercross, for those who may be curious, is derived from motocross. Unlike the latter, supercross races are held in stadiums on smaller tracks with bigger jumps. In the U.S., supercross is second only to NASCAR in popularity among motor sports.

It’s also somewhat more strenuous, as riders occasionally twist their bodies around in amusing displays while the engine does the work (unlike in stock car racing, where they just sit there and occasionally steer to the left). Supercross racers must do a lot of pilates.

The movie opens with our narrator introducing himself. “My name’s Trip Carlyle,” he says. Well of course it is. What other kind of name would you have in a movie like this? M-Dog? Weez? Bam? Trip helpfully informs us that he and his brother, K.C., are aspiring supercross riders. They’re forced to clean pools to make ends meet, but aren’t very good at it. “Trip,” the irresponsible one, is also reckless. So much so that he causes both he and his brother (who, as luck would have it, is afraid to take chances) to crash in a race and fail to finish. Luckily, K.C. catches the eye of a pro team owner who has it in mind to use him as protection for the team’s lead rider, “Rowdy,” who also happens to be the owner’s son. Throw in some perfunctory romance (K.C. and a rich law student, Trip and a female biker) and metric assloads of race footage, and that’s pretty much the whole movie.

“Supercross” is barely 80 minutes long, which is approximately 79 minutes too much. Unless you’re a fan of race footage, that is. I’m sure watching this stuff is enjoyable if one is a cycling enthusiast. But seeing the same slo-mo shots of motorcycles jumping through the air and taking curves wears thin after the first, say, ten times. It doesn’t help that there’s no good way to personalize the action. Riders wear helmets and eye covering, so the only method director Steve Boyum (“Slap Shot 2”) can use to show the tortured inner conflict each rider faces is by offering frequent close-ups of the actor’s eyes shifting behind his goggles. Scorsese he ain’t.

Boyum couldn’t just slap together an hour and twenty minutes of motorcycle porn, because that would be a documentary. Instead, he gives us cheesy romantic subplots (complete with power ballads), although the most angst-filled moments of longing actually take place between the brothers themselves. K.C. also struggles with his role as a “blocker” for Rowdy, because leapfrogging from pool cleaner to a member of the most successful team on the tour just isn’t enough, I guess.

For a sports movie to be successful, you have to give a s**t about either the sport itself or one of the characters. I’m sure, for fans of supercross, there are enough cameo appearances and gnarly bike jumps to tide them over. Everyone else is out of luck, because there’s absolutely nothing else here. Calling the characters in “Supercross” thinly drawn is right up there on the No S**t Meter with calling Rob Schneider an unfunny crybaby. I’ve seen scrubbing bubbles with more depth. It may not be the worst movie to come out this year (four months to go), but the odds are pretty good.

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