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Many critics called 2001's snowboarding picture Out Cold sophomoric. If that's the case, then the latest skateboarding picture, Grind, is barely junior high material. With a young cast of unknowns and an unending parade of cameos from Hollywood Squares' "thanks, but no thanks" bin, nothing much goes right for the main characters, or the audience watching them.

The picture starts where all of these must, the beginning of summer. Dustin (Adam Brody) and Eric (Mike Vogel) dream of becoming sponsored skaters, but can't get their "sponsor me" tape in front of a pro.

This calls for a ludicrous plan. With a couple of shirts from the Shirtique, a possibly brain-damaged buddy named Matt (Vince Vieluf) and a Casanova with a van named Sweet Lou (Joey Kern), they will hit the pro tour as a fake team. A loose collection of wacky hijinks ensue-some of which even seem to take place within the plot, such as it is.

The cast itself is talented enough for this type of material, but far too talented for this picture. Vogel and Brody goldbrick, sharing the duties of carrying a plot that doesn't need more than one hand. Kern shows a lot of promise playing McConaughey in Dazed and Confused, but wastes his time doing a first-rate impression of a second hand character. With nothing much left to do, Vieluf mugs harder than Jamie Kennedy when he needs to make a boat payment.

Grind's first problem is the script. It fails on every level. The jokes usually aren't funny and when they start to move near the funny end of the spectrum, it means the bit has been done before in everything from good teen pictures to Mentos ads. Eric has a hot stepmom straight out of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure -except Ed Solomon knew how to do something with that material. In Grind Eric's dad has married a young hot chick. That's it. That's the joke.

While hiding on the tour bus of top pro Jimmy Wilson (Out Cold's Jason London), Matt dominates the john and then he and Dustin have to hide in the ruined facilities. It smells bad. That's the joke. There aren't even amusing poo metaphors. There is nothing worse than gross-out gags without the sack to gross-out.

Story-wise the script is awful too. The whole "Stay true to your dreams, rip it up, and good things will come to you" clichés are mouthed a few times, but when all is said and done, it's a cynical "it's not what you do it's who you know" picture that can't even accept it's own nature.

It shouldn't be surprising that screenwriter Ralph Sall accidentally writes this moral into his story. Sall has worked as a music producer for years on such classic dreck as The New Guy, Scooby-Doo, Clockstoppers, and Cats & Dogs. One can only assume from the script's ineptitude that Sall got the job on the strength of his contacts. At least Sall's background means the that when Sweet Lou drops in a CD to blast "Nothin' But a Good Time" the disc is recognizably Poison's classic Open Up and Say...Ahh! disc.

Of course, Grind's awful direction doesn't really make things any better. Director Casey La Scala has only produced before this, and except for Donnie Darko he's shown about as much taste in what he backs as a British Cooking expo. The producer of What a Girl Wants and A Walk to Remember is probably not the best choice to direct an overly-talky attempt at a teen sex comedy.

When it shows up, the skateboarding is fairly well sho, but those sequences are so few and far between that the rats who are there for the wheelin' would be better served picking up one of the many videos available at their local skateshop. If you seen the hell out of all them, go into the back catalogs and pick up some of the Bones Brigade classics like Future Primitive and The Search for Animal Chin, which is given a fleeting reference right before an excruciating Tom Green cameo.

Except for listing all the unnecessary cameos (few of which are from the skate world) there's not much left to say. Grind isn't funny, the cast can't be faulted, but the filmmakers better be. If you need a G movie on a movie scavenger hunt this weekend, you would seriously do better with the dread Gigli; you'll at least enjoy making fun of that.


Jordan Rosa

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