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Published: Friday, 8/15/2003

Movie review: Grind *


“Grind” - if you don't know the word, as it relates to skateboarding, you won't like the movie.

It's a sport and a subculture with an ethos and a lingo all its own.

“You really tweaked that method to fakie, bro.”

And you and me are, like, “Dude, where's my subtitles?”

Grind looks to have cost about 700 bucks and could have been shot during a long weekend. Certainly that's more time and money than was invested in the script.

It's a skateboard road-trip picture about four dudes from Chicago who drive and skate their way west at the end of their high school education. Every stop along the way looks like L.A., but that's nitpicking.

There's the ambitious Eric, who dreams of turning pro, and Dustin, who has been saving for college and should know better. Matt is the generic gross guy in this teen-formula comedy. And Sweet Lou is the dude with the ride, the van that will allow them to live and ride their dream.

Mike Vogel of Grounded for Life plays the blandly blond lead, Eric. Adam Brody of Gilmore Girls is uptight Dustin. Joey Kern tries to channel the young Dazed and Confused Matthew McConaughey as Sweet Lou. And Vince Vieluf of Rat Race is the gross and grosserer Matt.

They're chasing a ritzy bus tour of pro skaters hither and yon, trying to get noticed, trying to get signed to a sponsorship. At every turn, they run into an obnoxious adult or some boarder who has already been signed who is there to tell them, “It'll never happen.” Ahh, but they haven't seen the finale, a skate-off challenge in Santa Monica that is, unlike the rest of the movie, expertly staged and filmed.

The movie occasionally reaches for the irreverence of the Friday movies, slapdash laughs to be had about working in fast food or stealing fast food and digesting fast food. The mating rituals are sometimes funny but nothing we haven't seen in a hundred horny teenager movies before this. The director is a newbie, and the screenwriter's credits are all for writing or producing songs for such movies as Three Kings and Speed. Do you remember songs from Three Kings or Speed?

The documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys invited outsiders into this culture and its history. Grind has no such pretensions. You're in or you're out; you either get it or you don't.

What you get is lots of skateboarding, shot from the waist down to not give away the stunt-skaters; scores of nubile groupies; flatulence and port-a-john and assorted other toilet jokes. Oh, and the occasional cameo - Stephen Root, Christopher McDonald, Tom Green, and Randy Quaid make appearances. Real skaters Bucky Lasek and Pierre Luc Gagnon do most of the skating.

It looks like junk and even the few laughs there are feel like junk laughs. Even the outtakes stink. Which invites a question - why would anybody waste money on this when they could be out grinding on their own?

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