(Last Updated On: June 15, 2010)
Movie of the Month: Downhill Racer
Director: Michael Ritchie
Where can I find it? Barnes & Noble
Downhill Racer is unfortunately the first movie I will have to do a negative review for on this blog.
First, let me give a bit of background information. Downhill Racer is considered to be one of the best movies about skiing by many people. This movie stars Robert Redford, who plays David Chappellet, an up-and-coming downhill skier from Idaho Springs, Colorado, who finds himself amidst the fast-paced World Cup tour in Europe. His race results improve quickly, and he becomes a star in Europe. Along the way, he deals with his bully-minded coach, played by Gene Hackman, who knows that Chappellet is a complete egotistical jerk but still wants him on the team so Team USA can win a gold medal in the upcoming Olympics. The movie follows over two years of Chappellett’s ski career leading up to the Olympics. But, just two weeks before the Olympics, Chappellett’s teammate falls during a race and breaks his leg. This teammate is both a friend and foe to Chappellett, as they are both medal contenders. But this injury leaves Chappellett the only hope for Team USA to win a medal in the Olympics. As easily predicted, Chappellett has the run of his life and wins Olympic gold.
So, what didn’t we like about this movie? First off, most of the characters are not likable. Frank and I are skiers ourselves, and realize that the industry is full of ego-freaks. Still, these ego-freaks often have some trace of humanity in them, or else they will lose public interest or even their sponsors. However, Chappellett is basically a self-centered womanizing jerk. There is simply nothing to like about him. He’s mean to everyone around him, even his own father. We feel like this movie is giving the depiction that all good skiers carry this same attitude, which is simply not true. And the coach? Well, he’s about the most uninspiring coach around. Every “pep talk” he gives to Chappellett is demeaning. It’s hard to like a movie when you don’t like the characters. But, we also did not like the storyline. The movie is simply difficult to follow. Huge lapses in time occur, leaving viewers confused about time and place. And the movie plot is followed by the viewer through a series of conversations, some of which don’t always make sense- even to the seasoned skier or racer. There was little character development- we never really knew why Chappellett was always acting like such a jerk.
The one positive we would give this movie is the cinematography. The camera caught the essence of the equipment and the races of old-days. At times, it’s actually scary to watch. Some of the scenes which show close ups of skiers skiing down the slopes are amazing– difficult to imagine how that captured those scenes using older cameras.
Generally, I like older ski movies. However, I did not like Downhill Racer. Still, I have grown up hearing about this movie my entire life. It seems that you cannot be a real skier if you have not seen this movie. Therefore, I’m glad I took the hour and forty-one minutes to view this film. And I would recommend this movie to other skiers, simply because it is such a historical classic in our sport. Hopefully others will enjoy it more than us 🙂
Trailer on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-OU7xHYF_Y