X Games: The Movie
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See Kyle. See Kyle Loza.
See Kyle Loza's tattoo. "Let's get hurt," the tattoo says.
See Kyle's motorcycle. "Riders 4 Christ," it says.
See Kyle start his motorcycle. Vroom-vroom, it goes. It is loud.
See Kyle ride his motorcycle. See him ride his motorcycle up a ramp. It is a very steep ramp.
Oh, oh! See Kyle do a backward summersault! See him slither through the air like an otter in the water! See him stretch out and fly like Superman! See him contort like someone from Cirque du Soleil!
Can Kyle's mother see what I'm seeing?
It's a Bird! It's a Plane! No, It's—
Kyle Loza, whose jaw-dropping maneuver is called Electric Doom, is one of the featured performers in ESPN's sports documentary/promotional video X Games: The Movie. It's the sort of smashmouth, high-flying cinematic adventure that leaves viewers gasping, the lack of oxygen sending them to primary-reader status. It's a film that inspires thoughts—in equal measure and often simultaneously—like, "Whoa, that was so cool!" and "What, are they insane!?"
The X Games is a series of contests that's 80 percent sport, 20 percent crazy. This movie focuses on the 2008 X Games in Los Angeles and Aspen, Colo., where most of the events involve some sort of motor, bike or board, and nearly all have a whiff of schoolboy bravado about them. ("I betcha can't do a double twist on your skateboard and land on that rail down there!") It'd be easy to assume that the men who compete are really boys who never grew up.
Make no mistake: The competition here is serious—and often dangerous. But some of these guys do have a childlike love for what they do—even if it's cost them most of their ligaments.
Take Travis Pastrana, for instance. We learn from the film that this motocross-star-turned-rally-driver has suffered 25 shoulder dislocations, countless broken bones and undergone 16 knee surgeries. A quick Google search reveals that 11 years ago a wipeout ripped the base of his spine away from his pelvis—an injury few survive, much less return to full functionality afterward. And it's certainly something that might persuade others to take up another line of work—like reviewing movies, maybe. Even fellow X Gamers think that Pastrana may have some sort of an "adrenaline disorder or something."
But the boyish, perpetually smiling Pastrana says that while "normal" folks might think about the dangers associated with the sport, the terrible what-ifs, X Games athletes ask "what if" in a different sort of way:
"What if you land it?," he says. "What if it's possible?"
Those aren't the sorts of questions most mothers would want their 12-year-old sons asking while they eye the roof of their backyard shed. But watching the film, you can't help but admire these X Games ambassadors. And some of them actually sound—dare I say it?—responsible.
"If I'm going to do something, I'm going to do it right," says skateboarder Danny Way, who says his love of skateboarding helped him survive an unpleasant childhood. For him, the sport is about passion, work and commitment. So serious is he about his allegiance to the sport that he has the word skate tattooed on his ring finger. Near the end of the film, we see him possibly break his foot in competition—only to drag himself out of the medical room to complete his final two runs.
"It's all about 'dream it, believe it and work hard at it,'" says Bob Burnquist, Way's prime rival, band partner and good friend. We see Burnquist talk about mastering his own healthy fear of skateboarding as he meticulously straps on pad after pad after pad.
The lessons come as quickly as the twists and backflips. "Failure is essential to growth," says one competitor. "Don't take success too seriously," says another. Ricky Carmichael—nicknamed the G.O.A.T., meaning "Greatest Of All Time"—offers a quick primer on humility: "I prefer R.C." Olympian snowboarder Shawn White gives a winking nod to perseverance: "We always fall on every trick we do," he says. "I mean not me, but a guy I know."
And then there's (heavily tattooed evangelical Christian) Kyle Loza, who makes it pretty clear that as fun and glamorous as this stuff may look on TV, it requires hard, unglamorous work: We see him practice his Electric Doom move over and over, plummeting into a pit filled with foam. And, at times, he sounds like he'd rather be an accountant.
"Dirt bikes," he says with a smile, "are not fun. They're scary and dangerous."
Who knew that being an X Gamer could be such a terrifying ... grind?
Going for the Gold
Above all, these athletes talk about pushing themselves and their sport forward. The greats talk about never settling for second-best—even if they sometimes must settle for second place. They talk about dedication and tenacity, and the futility of selling yourself short—no matter what you're doing.
So as a promotional video for the sport, X Games serves its purpose with aplomb. And objectively negative content is scarce. (It includes an occasional exclamation of God's name.)
One athlete turns away from the camera just as he appears to be ready to let an f-word fly. He doesn't say it. And when he didn't, I was reminded that I wasn't scribbling notes as rapidly as I usually do when I review a movie, even a PG one. Actually, there's not much at all in my notebook this time around besides a few great quotes from a few great X Gamers about sticking to stuff, playing through the pain and being a good sport when you lose.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Travis Pastrana, Kyle Loza, Shaun White, Ricky Carmichael, Danny Way, Bob Burnquist
Steve Lawrence ( )
August 21, 2009
January 12, 2010