August 27, 2009

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X-Games 3D: The Movie (PG)
Extreme sports stars give us a peek into their gravity-defying professions in X-Games 3D: The Movie, a really swell commercial for ESPN and ABC’s X-Games broadcasts.

Because after watching skateboarders including Danny Way and Bob Burnquist make death-defying jumps and wince-inducing falls during the skateboard portion of the movie, I could see myself tuning in to — or at least stalling as I surfed by — the skateboard competitions in the next X-Games. The skateboarders zip down something that looks like the highest drop you’ve ever seen on the most stomach-twisting roller coaster, only to jump several stories into the air on a ramp. Get a turn or a twist wrong and you fall with a splat many dozens of feet. It truly is thrilling, and you don’t have to be an expert to understand the difficulty of their aerial maneuvers. And then there are the athletes themselves, who seem like sweet guys, perhaps a little prone to say things are “gnarly” or use other 1980s slang, but nice dudes who cheer like mad when one of their competitors does something amazing.

Skateboarding got me in this movie, but perhaps the snow sports, motocross or rally car racing will get you. I have to say that as many opportunities for action-movie stunts and head-cracking danger as those sports offered, they didn’t grab me by the lapels quite like skateboarding did. And while the big screen and the 3-D are nice, they doesn’t by themselves make the ordinary extraordinary. This is that kind of strange pop-up-book 3-D, where people look more like cutout images than rounded parts of truly multi-dimensional space (as the images do, for example, in Under the Sea). An IMAX shot version of this movie (even one that wasn’t 3-D) would probably get the “awesome!” that the film was going for better than the flatter images here. This is an example of where 3-D can be more a distraction than an addition to a movie.

The movie is currently scheduled to run only through Thursday, Aug. 27, but if you’ve ever had the slightest interest in this kind of extreme sports, it’s worth catching while you can. B

Rated PG for extreme sports action and accidents. Directed by Steve Lawrence, X-Games 3D: The Movie is an hour and 35 minutes long and distributed in limited release by Walt Disney Pictures.