Superb skating carries slick teen flick with lofty title

September 18, 1993|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Film Critic

There was a time when the word "Airborne" only meant one thing: the brave paratroopers of divisions numbered 101 or 82, who dropped into North Africa, Sicily, Italy, Normandy and Germany itself, fought heroically on a batch of days when earth's foundations fled, took their wages and are dead.

And now, 1993, a whole new world, here's a movie called "Airborne." It's about . . . Rollerblading Cincinnati teen-agers.

Earth's foundations have fled!

Anyway, the movie turns out to be hyperslick, quite well made in the technical sense (beautifully photographed and designed) and somewhat shallow, another exploration of that perennial and passionate teen theme, fitting in.

Shane McDermott, a soap opera star, plays Mitch Goosen, a Southern California teen-ager who is forced by circumstances to spend six months in a Cincinnati high school, where his surfer duds and dude-man talk quickly make him the butt of a lot of jokes. But when it turns out that he's a pacifist and won't fight, he really enflames the local yokels, who set about to terrorize him.

But Mitch is fundamentally a good kid, who gets through the hazing (it's a suburban high school, remember, so nobody blows a hole in him) and makes friends where he can find them. If the movie has a strength, it's in the filmmakers' insistence that Mitch not be a dreary paragon of virtue. At one moment, angered and in a fit of hubris, he spits out a hurtful line that indicates he secretly feels infinitely superior to his landlocked fellows.

But the film soon returns to pattern, setting up a "big event" by which Mitch can prove his manhood, an all-or-nothing downhill race on in-line skates. It looks to me like the film was secretly underwritten by Rollerblade, the outfit that manufactures in-line skates and sponsors a stunt team called Team Rollerblade. At any rate, the legendary Team Rollerblade-stars keep showing up magically in the film, and, brother, can they skate!

A piffle, a trifle, a piffle inside a trifle, the movie does offer a thrill or two when it climbs into its footwear.

MOVIE REVIEW

"Airborne"

Starring Shane McDermott

Directed by Rob Bowman

Released by Warner Bros.

Rated PG

... **

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