October 4, 2007

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NASCAR: 3D (PG)
The 47-minute IMAX movies almost always offer the most IMAX bang for the buck, a fact proven again by NASCAR: 3D.

The feature-length Hollywood films that are shown on IMAX screens (sometimes with a little 3-D oomph) aren’t so much better than what you get on a regular stadium theater movie screen. Sometimes the 3-D even comes off a little flat. The 3-D effects in these made-for-IMAX movies, however, are breath-taking, exciting and thoroughly attention-gathering. (Well, for the most part, as I’ll explain in a bit.)

The very best of these movies are the films that, as with NASCAR: 3D, are straight-up documentaries — usually about some element of natural history but in this case the film focuses on the supernaturally popular NASCAR. We get a bit of the history of how the sport started (stock car racing grew out of the need for speed of bootleggers who outran police) and some background on the big names — founder William France Sr., first commission Erwin “Cannonball” Barker, drivers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Jr. We get to see how the cars are put together and we get a tires-level-view of the race that is, for someone who definitely likes an open highway and a loosely enforced speed limit, pretty cool.

However, I am not a NASCAR fan. I’ve never watched a race on TV and my most significant contact with the sport is the movie Cars. As much as I was impressed by the 3-D-ness of this movie and by the you-are-there shots of the racing and interested by the history I did, after a while, wonder how many times they were going to keep going around in a circle. And, while I didn’t fall asleep, I did have a seriously difficult time keeping both eyes open from about minute 25 through the movie’s end.

Which is not to say that this is a bad film — NASCAR: 3D is a movie wholly engaged in its subject. And, if you are equally NASCAR-obsessed it’s likely that you’ll keep both eager eyes on the shots of all those zipping and zooming cars without danger of nodding off. B

Rated PG for some crash scenes. Directed by Simon Wincer and narration written by Mark Bechtel, NASCAR: The IMAX Experience is 47 minutes long and is playing (at least through Thursday) at the Cinemagic Hooksett IMAX.