DVD Review - Hardflip

Randy Wayne (left) and Sean Michael Afable
play friends again in the Christian film "Hardflip"
After a limited theatrical release in 2012, Hardflip is available on home video. It's one of several titles on ChristianCinema.com, a web site that features movies that are geared toward families that are Christian or that appreciate Christian values and lessons. Often, these movies incorporate some Christian value and lesson as a major talking or plot point, or the movies will center around that value or lesson. For Hardflip, that value or lesson is forgiveness.

The movie stars Randy Wayne as Caleb Jones, a teenage boy who lives with his single mother in San Diego. His mother has a drinking problem and a medical issue about which she doesn't talk. As a result, Caleb and his mother have to move into a tiny apartment with not a lot of money. Caleb is angry and resentful about that, as well as about the fact that he's never known who his father is. Of course, he takes that anger and resentment out on his mother, played by Rosanna Arquette.

Caleb escapes this anger and resentment through drug use, drawing and skateboarding. Hardflip is actually a skateboarding term. It means that while in motion, a person is able to literally flip or turn the skateboard 360-degrees in the air but keep it moving. This could be an analogy or a metaphor for forgiveness. Director Johnny Remo depicts hardflips but skateboarding isn't used in a critical way or as a functional tool in the narrative. Skateboarding is just essentially a prop here.

That's fine. Hardflip doesn't immerse you in skateboarding culture as Lords of Dogtown (2005) did, but that's not a requirement. Shelter (2007) was a surfing movie that wasn't about surfing. Surfing was more or less a prop there. It didn't matter because the characters and story were so compelling. The characters and story in Hardflip are not as compelling, but there's an interesting convergence.

Caleb's mom becomes sick and is hospitalized due to a brain tumor that actually puts her into a coma. Caleb then has to find his father. Caleb's father is Jack Sanders, a wealthy architect who is all about work and less about fun. Sanders is played by John Schneider who most people of a certain age remember as Bo Duke from the 1979 series The Dukes of Hazzard.

Nearly thirty years later, Randy Wayne starred in the prequel called The Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning as Luke Duke, the cousin of Bo. Schneider also co-starred in the TV series The Secret Life of the American Teenager in its first season. Wayne was featured in The Secret Life of the American Teenager in 2011 in its third season. Wayne has kind of lived in Schneider's shadow for five years but with this project Wayne and Schneider finally converge on screen.

Schneider gives a good performance. He elevates every scene he inhabits. Between Schneider and Wayne, Wayne's performance is certainly elevated, though Wayne has proven himself to be a good actor by himself. To Save a Life (2010) and Dream Boy (2010) were both good acting turns for the sexy yet boyish-looking, 32-year-old, Oklahoma native. He was even promising in Honey 2 (2011), and most likely due to the fact he was more subtle there.

Honey 2 was critically hated, but Wayne is better in it because he's not underlining every emotion. Hardflip has Wayne going too big most times. If he has to be angry in a scene, he's too angry. He's also bitter a little too often. If he has to be sad, he's often too blank. I don't think you even see Wayne smile until the very last shot, which makes the whole thing a bit of a slog.

I understand that the filmmakers wanted to position the character to the point of suicide and I suppose they wanted to sell it mainly on Wayne's performance. The writing certainly doesn't sell it. Yes, Wayne faces many difficulties but all of it never felt like it rose to the level of suicide. Perhaps, it was a problem in the dialogue or lack thereof, or its structure and pacing, but the movie's ultimate moments hadn't the desired effect.

The impression is made that Caleb doesn't care much about anything, or he has no joy in his life. I'm glad the movie doesn't go the way of a cheesy romance between Caleb and some random girl, but the movie needed something like that. The movie does introduce a character named Joey, played by Sean Michael Afable (Akeelah and the Bee) who befriends Caleb, but not enough is done to build that so-called friendship. It's funny because Afable co-starred with Wayne in To Save a Life, but Afable's character here is basically used as a plot device.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, and teen drug and alcohol content.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 51 mins.


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