Release Date: June 1, 2012 (limited)
Rating: PG-13 (for mature thematic material, and teen drug and alcohol content)
Genre: Action, Drama
Director: Johnny Remo
Actors: Randy Wayne, John Schneider and Rosanna Arquette
A message film for the skateboard crowd, Hardflip will likely thrill teens and horrify their moms—but only because some of those tricks look dangerous and the characters never bother with niceties like pads. That message is one of forgiveness and there’s no missing it because the filmmakers constantly drive it home. It’s a well-intentioned film that sometimes feels like it’s trying too hard, but it does offer some unique methods of sharing the gospel message.
The story follows Caleb (Randy Wayne), a skater dude with no motivation to grow up and get a life. He just wants to skate—or maybe go to art school, but mostly skate—and if his hardworking single mom (Rosanna Arquette) has to work two jobs to afford his lifestyle, oh well. He’s not a bad kid, just immature (and possibly not very bright). Unfortunately, mom has a brain tumor that lands her in the hospital, leaving young Caleb to fend for himself.
Caleb (who really does love his mom) goes rummaging through her stuff and finds an address for his mysterious, missing dad. Apparently he’s been sending voluntary child support all these years, but Caleb’s mom never cashed the checks. Jack (John Schneider) is a classic workaholic scumbag—think Ebenezer Scrooge with a private jet. When Caleb was born “it wasn’t a good time” for Jack to start a family, and eighteen years later he’s still not ready to be a father. Jack is unfailingly pompous, even when he’s trying to be nice. As it would be uncharitable to ascribe that to Schneider’s performance, we’ll assume it was a character trait the director tried to bring out.
Woven through the long-awaited, not-so-happy meeting between father and son is a subplot involving a group of skate punks who rule the streets and the skate park. Matthew Ziff does a fine turn as the arrogant young boss at the top of the pack, dishing out insults and threats with equal panache. His official videographer, Joey, (Sean Michael Afable) shows emotional layers as a hanger-on who befriends Caleb.
Speaking of video, Hardflip has a bit of a homemade documentary quality about it, minus the shakiness and missed shots. The skateboard footage is remarkable, zipping along with the characters’ boards and catching every angle of the most complicated tricks. The soundtrack is well-chosen, too, with a driving beat and slightly edgy feel that suits the streetwise vibe of the story.
Several minor characters are noteworthy as well: Yves Bright portrays Caleb’s mom’s doctor, a compassionate physician who genuinely cares about his patients and their families. Playing Bob Cratchit to Jack’s Scrooge is a guy named Stupak (Corey Sorenson) who manages to deliver a speech about the importance of family without sounding the least bit sappy. Ralph (Christopher Michael), a homeless guy who delivers enigmatic messages via cardboard signs, has a nice moment when he finally tells his story.
A significant percentage of the film is devoted to watching guys skate. If only the rest of the plot moved as fast as their boards it would make for a really good story. As it is, the filmmakers apparently think the audience isn’t smart enough to get the point the first umpteen times, so every message is driven home again and again. Then again, the intended audience for this is probably teens, who are often distracted watchers, so maybe that was a conscious choice. The last scene is serious overkill, though—the film comes to a perfectly good ending with excellent symbolism and everything, then instead of stopping while they’re ahead they had to go and put a silly, shiny bow on the package.
- Drugs/Alcohol: Several characters turn to the bottle for comfort. Caleb refers to his mom’s “booze bill.” Caleb and others smoke pot. Skater dudes drink beer; one is forced to drink when he’d rather not. A boy attempts suicide via alcohol and prescription meds.
- Language/Profanity: Caleb says, “I’m what society refers to as a ‘bast***’” but it’s used to describe his parents’ lack of a marriage certificate rather than a character trait. “Suc**” and the b-word make one appearance each.
- Sex/Nudity: Caleb refers to his mom’s “coming home from vacation pregnant” but we later learn there was more to the story. Some cleavage.
- Violence: Shouting and arguing. Mother slaps rebellious son (and immediately asks forgiveness). Woman has a seizure. A fair amount of bullying, shoving, and generally menacing behavior. A brief fight.
- Spiritual Themes: There’s a huge lack of respect shown by younger and older folk alike, but the theme of the film is forgiveness. Caleb is the child of unwed parents and raised by a single mom who tells him “I had a choice” when discussing his birth. Choosing work over family (and vice versa) is also given significant screen time. Boys forge checks and discuss forging school notes.