Race The Sun

on March 22, 1996 by Carole Glines
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Despite its strangely poetic title, "Race the Sun" is a formulaic film about an underdog solar-car racing team that triumphs against the odds. Think "The Bad News Bears," "The Mighty Ducks," "Cool Runnings" et al., and you pretty much have the idea. The only pleasant addition here is some luscious scenery of Hawaii and Australia (care of director Charles T. Kanganis, who did "3 Ninjas Kick Back") and of the film's gorgeous star, Halle Berry.
   Berry plays Sandra, a new science teacher at Kona Pali High who's assigned a group of disadvantaged, multi-ethnic students with little motivation. The school's cynical shop instructor, Frank (Jim Belushi), tries to persuade her that it's hopeless to teach these kids. With Sandra's unwavering encouragement, however, her class decides to build and race a special solar-powered car against more experienced drivers. Their efforts take Sandra, an unwilling Frank and the kids Down Under, where they battle mean-spirited competitors, dissension in their own ranks, and the elements of the country as they struggle toward the finish line. Based on true events, the plotwork by writer/producer Barry Morrow (who in better days shared an Oscar for "Rain Man") is exactly what you'd expect, and he doesn't take any chances with his characters, either. Ensemble movies always have stock types, and here we have, tiresomely presented, the loner ("To Die For's" Casey Affleck), the tough guy (Anthony Ruivivar), the cool girl ("This Boy's Life's" Eliza Dushku), the fat kid (J. Moki Cho), the clown (Dion Basco), the flirt (Nadja Pionilla) and the nerd (Sara Tanaka). They all receive about a minute of screen time for character development as the plot paces through its predictable course. Some of the young actors might be promising, but who would know?
   Belushi seems barely awake and deeply enmeshed in his slob persona. Even Berry's role is disappointing, giving her little to do except look great in skimpy outfits and full makeup. But that's not a complaint; you can't help but be transfixed watching her perfect lip liner as she drives deep into the dusty wilds of Australia. That's the mystery of star power, which Berry has in abundance. Starring Halle Berry and Jim Belushi. Directed by Charles T. Kanganis. Written by Barry Morrow. Produced by Barry Morrow and Richard Heus. A TriStar release. Drama. Rated PG for mild language and a brief incident of teen drinking. Running time: 90 min
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