There’s plenty of wheel-spinning in “Airborne,” and rollerblades account for only a fraction of it. Kids might enjoy this teenage fish-out-of-the-surf comedy , but anyone approaching the high school age of the movie’s characters will spot the obvious formula within 15 minutes of opening credits.
Why Warner Bros. chose a fall release is a puzzle. “Airborne” might have gotten lost among the summer releases, but at least its only possible audience wouldn’t have been in math class. Even goosed by the rollerblading fad, box office prospects look modest.
Premise has California teen Mitchell Goosen (Shane McDermott) sent to Cincinnati to live with extremely unhip relatives while his parents spend six months in Australia on a research grant. While he and cousin Wiley (Seth Green) become pals, Mitchell’s surfer dude lingo, pretty face and ultracool L.A. demeanor make him the target of the requisite young toughs at his new school.
The toughs, in this case, are a group of hockey players who hate Mitchell nearly as much as they hate the “preps” from a rival school. That hockey is about as much a part of Cincinnati culture as surfing doesn’t matter to the filmmakers, who chose the sport apparently so Mitch could show off his rollerblade skills, lead his classmates to victory and win the respect of those Ohio ruffians. Not to mention the love of the pretty Nikki (Brittney Powell).
Younger children probably won’t notice that the film has fewer visible teachers and coaches than a “Peanuts” cartoon, and they might even enjoy the lengthy rollerblade race down the hilly mean streets of Cincinnati that caps the action. Director Rob Bowman and lenser Daryn Okada do OK with the action sequence despite a weakness for such obvious tricks as slow-motion air jumps and screechy auto crashes. The Cincinnati locale is put to good use.
What Bowman can’t seem to manage is anything but the most by-the-numbers character development, and he fumbles most of the comedy. A bland cast doesn’t contribute, with McDermott showing little more than a nice smile and dreamy eyes in his portrayal. The surfer lingo comes and goes, and it’s never believable from the one-note thesp. Then again, even a more polished or charming actor would have problems with screenwriter Bill Apablasa’s Malibu Zen dialogue (“You don’t have to fight the shark to fight for the wave.”).
Green gets off easier as the wimpy heavy-metal cousin, although he seems to owe more than a nod to Anthony Michael Hall’s turn in “Sixteen Candles.” Rest of the cast is given little to work with and proceeds accordingly.
Stewart Copeland’s mediocre rock score won’t fill any seats, either, although a heavy television ad blitz might show some initial results. Homevideo should be just around the corner.