Review of Hardflip

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This movie is about a young skater whose ill mother and absent father leave him reaching for the only hope he has...becoming a sponsored skater. After finding a stack of old love letters, he sets out to find the father he never knew and inadvertently begins a journey he never could have expected.
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Movie Review: Hardflip

-- Rating: PG-13
Length: 114 minutes
Release Date: June 1, 2012
Directed by: Johnny Remo
Genre: Christian, Drama

Director Johnny Remo previously delved into the complicated relationship between a man and his father in the 2009 film "A Letter to Dad." In "Hardflip," he focuses on the relationship between a younger man and his father.

Caleb Jones (Randy Wayne, "Honey 2," "The Haunting of Molly Hartley") is an average teenage boy who cares more about his friends and his social life than his family. Caleb's father walked out on the family when he as just a child, leaving his mother as the sole provider. Beth (Rosanna Arquette, "The Whole Nine Yards," "Pulp Fiction") does whatever it takes to support her son, including taking two jobs. Though he knows that his mother is tired and often frustrated by her life, he thinks that nothing can stop him. Since he can handle a skateboard like no one else he's ever seen, he decides to get a sponsor and become a pro skateboarder. That becomes the sole focus of his life, and it creates a wedge between the two.

His world gets turned upside down when his mother suddenly and unexpectedly becomes sick. His mother can no longer support him and as their money runs out, Caleb realizes that he must do something quickly. After going through his mother's personal belongings, he finds a packet of love letters she kept from her relationship with his father. Caleb uses those letters to track down his father Jack (John Schneider, "Lake Placid 2," "The Dukes of Hazard").

Caleb is shocked when he discovers that Jack lives nearby and more shocked when he learns that Jack has always lived in that town and never contacted him. His guiding force throughout the movie is a man named Ralph (Christopher Michael, "Heartbreak Ridge," "Fools Rush In"). Ralph is a homeless man who often talks about God. Early in the movie, Caleb seldom acknowledges his preachings, but as the movie progresses, he realizes that there is some truth in his words.

"Hardflip" is a Christian movie that focuses on the relationships found in families and the relationships that people have with God. Beth is a religious woman who frequently prays for her son, hoping that he will put skateboarding behind and focus on the future. It isn't until he finally meets his father that Caleb realizes his mother was right all along. With his father's help, he become a man who knows what he wants and makes a future for himself.

The opening scenes of the movie show that this director wanted to make a movie for teens. Most movies featuring skateboarding scenes show teens wearing some type of padding to keep them safe. In "Hardship," the teens never use any type of protection because they don't care what happens. Caleb is just another face in the crowd, but he learns how to stand out from the crowd and stand up in the end.

While the film tries hard, it suffers from several problems. Remo, who also helped write the screenplay, tries too hard to make Caleb an ordinary teen. Caleb sometimes mentions going to art school or furthering his education, he frequently backtracks and changes his mind, deciding that skateboarding is the only important thing in his life. It doesn't help that the movie often shows Caleb with his slacker friends who care little about the future.

Many movies of this type show the reunion between father and son as a heartwarming moment. "Hardship" does not take this same path, instead showing Jack as a man who cannot handle the idea of a child. Jack explains that he left the pregnant Beth because he needed to focus on his career. Now that his son tracked him down, he still can't help because he is too focused on his career.

Though Schneider often plays a strong male character, he is in his element here as a man no one would describe as good or strong. He practically chews the scenery in each scene, taking the focus away from the younger and less experienced Wayne. He does such a fantastic job of playing Jack that viewers might find themselves wishing he had just a few more scenes.

"Hardship" also does a good job of portraying skateboarding in realistic ways. Remo takes the camera below the skateboarders and above the action, creating interesting views of the moves. The shots give the scenes the feel of a skateboarding documentary, making those moments feel almost out of place with the rest of the film.

Though it suffers from some pacing issues and other problems, "Hardship" has a few moments that will keep viewers engaged. Those looking for a movie with a strong religious message and amazing skateboarding scenes will enjoy this one.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars