“Afterschool special” is usually a putdown, but “Free Style” sports a style that redeems this pre-teen and teen genre effort. Much credit goes to Corbin Bleu (“High School Musical”) for his boy-next-door performance as aspiring motocross pro Cale Bryant. His character touches all bases as a multipurpose role model: he worked two jobs since age 15, delivers pizzas and sells electronics. He impresses the dad of his Mexican-American girlfriend Alex (Sandra Echeverría) enough to earn his restaurant’s sponsorship for the big regional championship. But first Cale tracks down his black dad in Oregon who abandoned his white mom long ago. (Guess who shows up at the big race in the last reel?) Cale is great to his little biracial sister Bailey (Madison Pettis) who’s taunted by racists at school. And he’s great to his motocross pals–except that mean blonde overprivileged competitor with an overpowering dad. William Dear (“Harry and the Hendersons”) directs a screenplay that Jeffery Nicholson and Josh Leibner set in the Pacific Northwest. Clue that “Free Style” was shot in Vancouver: the breakfast cereal on the kitchen table is “Sugar Sweetie O’s” from another shot-in-Vancouver production, Uwe Boll’s “Postal.” With Penelope Ann Miller, Scott Patey, Matt Bellefleur, Tegan Moss and John Shaw. 94m. (Bill Stamets)
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.