It's no surprise that new teen buddy flick Grind takes place in the world of skateboarding.
With pro skateboarder Tony Hawk hawking Doritos, teen queen Avril Lavigne singing an ode to her "Sk8er Boi" and Jackass star Johnny Knoxville and his boarding buds pulling high ratings on MTV, the once "alternative" sport is being embraced by the mainstream media.
"Grind isn't a serious skate movie," says star Mike Vogel, who recently appeared at Charm City Skate Park in Baltimore with co-star Jennifer Morrison. "It's a comedy - the focus of the movie is the friendship of the four main guys and on the message that you should follow your dream against all odds."
Laughs aside, the film (which opens here tomorrow) also features incredible skating sequences by pro skaters and X-Games champions Bob Burnquist, Perre Luc Gagnon and Baltimore native Bucky Lasek. Bam Margera, a pro skater featured on Jackass, and many other real-life skaters play a role in the movie, which was developed in association with 900 Films, a production company co-owned by skate god Hawk.
According to film producer Casey LaScala, the association with 900 Films allowed them to achieve "the authenticity we were looking for within the skateboarding community. We're telling a very funny story, but we want to protect the integrity of the skater world as much as the pros do," he said in the film's news release.
This integrity, or "street cred," is important in marketing a film to a community of athletes so averse to selling out.
"Because we had 20 to 30 pro skaters with us on the set at all times, we never had to worry about the skate community seeing the film as a sellout," says Morrison, the film's female lead. "The movie is lighthearted and fun, but the skating is authentic."
Grind follows the skate-obsessed Eric (Vogel) and his three best friends as they take a road trip in pursuit of skate legend Jimmy Wilson's tour bus and their own dreams of becoming "sponsored" or professional skaters. To the guys, pro skating is synonymous with adventure, free boarding equipment, fame and the requisite hot babes.
This is where Morrison steps in, although in a much less stereotypical role. Like the girls of last year's surfing movie Blue Crush, Morrison's character, Jamie, is a real athlete.
"My role really reflects girls in the skate world," she says. "Female pro skaters are still fighting for acceptance but are becoming more respected in the skate world." When Eric first sees Jamie, he assumes she is a skate groupie, hanging out at the ramps to catch a glimpse of the male pros. She soon proves him wrong, and the smitten Eric becomes even more attracted to Jamie as he watches her "grind" on the half-pipes.
If an early screening at Muvico is any indication, Grind should be received well by the skating community and teens in general. Those who attended the screening enjoyed the humorous roadtrip tale but left in awe of the skating scenes.
"It was tight. You usually gotta buy skate videos to see scenes like that," says Matt Marshall, a 17-year-old skate fan from Towson.
"Hopefully the film will attract more kids to skating," says Charm City Skate Park part-owner Gordon Rambissoon. "It's getting more and more popular, but the Baltimore skate community is still relatively pretty small even though two pros - Bucky Lasek and Rodney Jones - are both from here," he said as local skaters waited to have Grind posters and T-shirts autographed by the stars.
The young, enthusiastic crowd suggests that the skateboarding trend shouldn't fade away anytime soon.
"I wanna see the movie the first day it comes out. I've been skating my whole life," says 10-year-old Baltimorean Steven Thompson.
Byron Thompson, a 12-year-old fellow skater from Baltimore (no relation), says he may want to become a pro one day, just like the guys in Grind. What does he think about Hollywood making a skateboarding movie?
"It's about time."