Film review: Down and Derby

Published: Thursday, April 14 2005 2:28 p.m. MDT

Lauren Holly, left, and Greg Germann star as the mother and father of a boy who enters a local toy-car competition in "Down and Derby."

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As the title indicates, "Down and Derby" revolves around the annual Pinewood Derby, a "toy-car" competition that provides suspense whenever, wherever, it's held.

However, what suspense there is in this supposed comedy comes from waiting for the next laugh . . . any laugh really. Too often the movie defies description as a comedy. The tiresome, painful schtick only makes what it is actually a relatively short film feel considerably longer.

Also casting the irksome Greg Germann (TV's "Ally McBeal") as a leading man is a major mistake. He's best taken in small doses in supporting roles. He stars as Phil Davis, an ad executive whose childhood rivalry with his too-perfect neighbor, Ace Montana (Mark Raymond), has continued into his adult life.

It reaches ridiculous proportions, however, when Phil's son Brady (Adam Hicks) enters a local Pinewood Derby contest, as does Ace's equally competitive son A.J. (Eric Jacobs).

So Phil takes it on himself to build Brady the perfect Pinewood Derby car, with little or no help from the boy. In fact, Phil becomes so consumed by his efforts that he begins blowing off work, which irritates his all-too-patient wife Kim (Lauren Holly).

The film's one-joke premise about ultra-competitive fathers isn't really all that funny, but writer/director Eric Hendershot keeps pounding away at it in a futile attempt to get a laugh. Also, there's some surprisingly suggestive humor here that seems out of place in a film clearly aimed at families.

Hendershot also fails to make good use of his cast, which includes Pat Morita in a brief supporting role. Worse, the male characters are all such self-involved jerks that trying to redeem them in the end proves impossible.

And no one in their right mind would ever believe Holly is married to Germann . . . but that's a different matter.

Though the film is apparently set in Arizona (as indicated by car license plates), sharp-eyed members of the audience may notice some St. George locations, since portions were shot there. Not that that makes it worth seeing.

"Down and Derby" is rated PG for some crude humor relating to bodily functions, as well as some suggestive humor and references, and some slapstick violence. Running time: 94 minutes.


E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com

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