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Dust to Glory Review

By Shawn McKenzie 04/22/2005

Sports documentaries for me aren’t all that exciting.  That’s why I was afraid to check out Dust to Glory, a racing documentary.  It was directed by Dana Brown, the son of director Bruce Brown, whose most famous documentary was the 1966 surfing documentary was The Endless Summer, a movie I saw years ago and really didn’t pique my interest (Bruce also worked with Dana on this movie as a creative consultant.)  Brown also did the acclaimed 2003 surfing documentary Step Into Liquid, a movie I haven’t seen yet.  As for this movie, I really wasn’t any more interested in it than I had been for Bruce’s Summer, but the crowd really ate it up at the screening I went to.

Brown narrates this look at the Tecate SCORE Baja 1000.  It’s a 32-hour, 1,000-mile motor vehicle race along Mexico’s Baja peninsula that originally began in 1967.  Anyone can participate (with an entrance fee) using any vehicle they choose, and many of them use several odd vehicles for the race.  There are vehicles ranging in prices from $300,000 to $2 million, and they come in several shapes and sizes, like expensive trophy trucks and pre-1982 Volkswagen Bugs (just think of Herbie the Love Bug.)  It takes place on and off paved roads, which can be dangerous and/or criminal, because there is the threat of being stopped by the local police.  Brown used over 50 cameras along the racetrack, and thousands of spectators come every year to the race to watch it (it usually takes place in November.)  Not only does he document the 2003 race featured in the movie, but also he uses vintage footage to document the history of the race itself (the history part is only a small part of the movie though.)  Among the celebrity racers in the inaugural race were movie stars Steve McQueen and James Garner.  Presiding over the race is coordinator Sal Fish, who has been running the race since 1973.  Legendary racecar driver Mario Andretti was the Grand Marshall of the race featured.  There is an amusing scene where Andretti has to hitch a ride to a point in the race, and the people who pick him up are awed that they are among the presence of the great Andretti.

There are several racers featured in the movie.  Supercross motorcycle legend Mike “Mouse” McCoy (who was also one of the producers of the movie) has decided to do the race all by himself, without any other drivers to pick up the slack.  NASCAR driver Robby Gordon, motorcyclists Johnny Campbell and Steve Hengeveld, and trophy truck driver Alan Pflueger are also among the celebrity drivers in the race.  There is the three-generation McMillin family, comprised of 74-year-old Corky and 16-year-old Andy, who is racing for the first time behind the wheel (he just recently got his driver’s license.)  Another family affair is the racing team of 62-year-old JN Roberts and his son Jimmy (JN won the first race in 1967, but he hasn’t been back in 30 years.)  There is an all-female racing team competing this year as well.

With all of these separate profiles, it became hard for me to distinguish between them, because they all blended in together.  I kept hoping that it would be exciting to watch, like a car chase scene in an action film, but all of the continual racing throughout the film bored me.  Don’t get me wrong…visually it was impressive.  With those 50+ cameras along the race, including a few helmet cams, the movie really brought you into the race.  Part of what bored me was Brown’s narration.  He wasn’t exactly the most expressive speaker, and it made me dreary after a while.

Dust to Glory is a must see movie…if you are a fan of racing.  Otherwise, watching it as a non-racing fan is about as exciting as watching real televised races.  The whole mystique about racing is lost on me, no matter how dangerous it can get.  I can only view so many accidents before dropping off from ennui (it’s kind of the same feeling I get from watching NBC’s “Fear Factor”…the stunt part, not the gross-out part.)  I have a similar reaction to surfing documentaries (including surfing reality shows, like MTV’s “Surf Girls” and the WB’s “Boarding House: North Shore”) as I do to racing movies, so it’s no shock that Brown has done one of each.  The only reason I am giving it the rating I’m giving it is because the reaction of the crowd was amazing.  There is a reason why NASCAR racing is a big hit on TV, so it’s no surprise that they would love this movie.  As for me, it really didn’t cross the finish line.

Get the soundtrack featuring a score by Nathan Furst and songs by Michael Franti, The Sandals, Vast, and more:

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