Grind borrows from so many places that it barely has its own identity, instead gamely attempting to subsist on a steady diet of Tony Hawk, road trip bromides and repeat viewings of Dazed and Confused. And for all its eager consumption of what came before, the movie is incredibly anemic. Only a pair of witty supporting turns and a high-profit-margin filmmaking ethos save Grind from complete disaster.
The story is typical teen wishful thinking: Poor Eric (Mike Vogel) thinks that noodling around after school on his deck means that he’s meant for the big time, so he ropes his best friends, wry college-bound Dustin (Adam Brody) and goofball fuck-up Matt (Vince Vieluf) into ditching their post-high school graduation summer plans to drive around the country putting on skate demos in an attempt to pick up team sponsorship, the holy grail of any cement shark with dreams of going pro. In need of transportation, Eric turns to his one pal with a grimy van, Sweet Lou (Joey Kern), who’s such a carbon copy of Matthew McConaughey’s indelible jail-bait addict, Wooderson of Dazed and Confused, that it’s a wonder director Casey La Scala didn’t just splice in footage from Richard Linklater’s masterpiece and leave it at that.
Just like that, they’re off, raiding Dustin’s college fund for money and cutting a wide adolescent path through a traveling skate tour headed by Jimmy Webb (Jason London). If not for the presence of Brody and Vieluf (whose deliveries couldn’t be more different, but whose comedy rises to the same level), Grind would be a misintentioned Disney special. Vieluf is misfit stoner gold, while Brody — in the same role he now handles on “The O.C.” unleashes an irresistible sardonic streak that paints his character as the one kid in the film you might actually want to hang out with.
I should throw out here that I'm not and never was a skater, but because I own two pair of Etnies sneakers, that basically makes me a minority shareholder in Grind, since every single character is shod in the company's skate shoes. Like so many other movies built around semi-alternative sports, this one is yet another 90-minute advertisement for industry players like Independent. At least the stunts are done by real people and not computer animations the only thing worse than having to sit through skate or any other X-Games-type activity in a movie theatre is knowing that what you're watching is undeniably fake (see Blue Crush for further information).
Grind isn't nearly as awful as it could have been, but that's no reason to seek it out, unless you're looking for a momentary diversion from bleary-eyed hours devoted to the band SK8 or Die.
Erin Podolsky writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].