Down And Derby

on April 15, 2005 by Kim Williamson
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A simple pleasure from start to finish, this story of a dad and his derby car is bowing in 20 markets from Freestyle Releasing. The engaging comedy, with marketing help, could be a draw to family audiences looking for a good-hearted, clean-rated, "different" kind of movie. Adult-dad suburban types and their male tykes -- demos that also make up the main characters onscreen -- should have little trouble gearing into this tale of one Phil Davis ("Down to Earth's" Greg Germann), a hometowner who's always placed second in life to California-beaut import Ace Montana (newcomer Marc Raymond).

Phil's son (Adam Hicks of "The 12 Dogs of Christmas"), like his pals, is about to enter the Pinewood Derby, a Scout staple since 1953 in which Cubs, with supposed supervision-only assistance from their fathers, fashion a handmade wooden slot car to race against their peers. Of course, Ace's sneering son ("Soccer Dog: European Cup's" Eric Jacobs) plans to follow in his father's footsteps and produce the winner. In both households, the son is shunted aside, as the competing dads spittle and whittle in their macho machinations to come out on top in the kiddie-car contest. The same holds true in neighboring manses, to the consternation of the moms, led by Kim Davis (Lauren Holly of TV's "Rocky Point").

There's nothing about "Down and Derby" that demands big-screen treatment, but the playing by Germann, Holly, et al. is so honest and easygoing, and the few-surprises script by writer/director Eric Hendershot (the "Clubhouse Detectives" videos) so genial, that it fills up that big screen enough to keep moviegoers charmed. (Although the producers for ticket-sales purposes are playing up the presence of "The Karate Kid's" Pat Morita, his is a walk-on role, with just a couple minutes of screentime.) Special kudos goes to Hendershot for the film's ending, which is sure to be an audience-pleaser but which in its inventiveness earns the cheers. Starring Greg Germann and Lauren Holly. Directed and written by Eric Hendershot. Produced by Steele Hendershot and Dickilyn Johnson. A Freestyle release. Comedy. Rated PG for some crude humor and brief mild language. Running time: 94 min

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