Too much enthusiasm spoils Baja race film

MovieReview

April 22, 2005|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Could somebody please turn down the hyperbole machine here?

Like a 94-minute infomercial for off-road racing, Dana Brown's documentary Dust to Glory portrays its subject - a sport in which cars drive really, really fast over all manner of terrain - as the most exciting, ennobling and mystical experience the world has ever known, practiced by men and women of indomitable spirit and incalculable bravado, but who are still humble, and gosh-darn good people to boot.

Everything about this film is drenched in adrenaline, from Brown's unrestrained narration (although his tone sounds more worshipful than excited, he intones just about every super-charged adjective known to the English language) to the in-your-face camerawork and the pounding soundtrack.

All this is done in service to a 1,000-mile road race through Baja California that challenges both car and driver to go where man is not meant to go, often at speeds they're not meant to achieve - at least not in the midst of towns, roadside crowds and adoring fans, who risk being plowed into by one of these crazed speed demons at any moment.

Admittedly, this sort of race is exciting, especially since it has everything from vintage VW Beetles to souped-up motorcycles to big-wheeled supertrucks - and the cameras Brown employs to show it to us really capture the action. Still, when you've seen one driver's-eye view of a car going 100-plus mph through a cloud of smoke, you've seen them all. And you're shown a couple of dozen here.

It's what this film doesn't tell us that seems most interesting. When Brown notes that one of his helicopters forced a veteran racer off the road and could have cost him the race, not to mention a leg or two, the incident is dismissed as though it's an everyday occurrence. Wasn't the guy at least ticked off?

There's also the idea that all this road-racing fun seems to be truly dangerous to pedestrians and onlookers - in fact, Mexican police at one point pull a bunch of the drivers over. We never learn why. Shouldn't this be treated as a bigger deal?

Sure, Dust to Glory is cool and all that - as long as they come nowhere near my family.

Dust to Glory

Documentary directed by Dana Brown

Released by IFC Films

Rated PG (racing action, language)

Time 94 minutes

Sun Score **

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