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nitro circus
Click for full sized poster

Nitro Circus:
The Movie in 3D

Starring the Nitro Circus crew with Johnny Knoxville
Screenplay by Gregg Godfrey Travis Pastrana Jeremy Rawle
Based on the MTV2 cable series
Directed by Gregg Godfrey and Jeremy Rawle

IN SHORT: Don't Try This At Home. [Rated PG-13 for depiction of extreme and dangerous stunts throughout, and for language. 80 minutes]

The Nitro Circus crew includes X-Games hero Travis Pastrana, Jolene Van Vugt, Streetbike Tommy [Passemante], Gregg Godfrey, Jeremy Rawle, Erik Roner, Special Greg [Powell], Jim DeChamp, Aaron "Wheelz" Fotheringham and Parks Bonifay. We wanted to give props to the entire Nitro Circus crew before they manage to pull off a stunt that gets one of 'em killed. More important, though, is that "Wheelz" has Spina Bifida, a birth defect that means he does his stunts in a wheelchair. He does it, he says, to set an example to any one else with a similarly crippling situation. We'll come back to that notion in a paragraph or three . . .

Once Upon A Time there was a man named Evel Knievel who found fame and fortune and every thing that goes with it -- in his case it meant (eventually) breaking every single bone in his body -- by climbing on his motorcycle and jumping cars, and then buses, and eventually river gorges and/or valleys and most of downtown Las Vegas. In his day there was no cable pay-per-view. If you didn't see it live or on the occasional television broadcast, you only knew the legend.

And since no kid that saw any of the televised jumps ever listened to a parental unit who screamed "Don't You Even THINK Of Trying To Do That !!!!!" well . . . you know. Kids do what kids do. Some kids grow up, so to speak, to become legendary, like the "jackass" (of name and film) Johnny Knoxville, who describes Nitro Circus thusly: "on Jackass we set up situations designed to fail. Nitro Circus sets up situations where, if they fail, they die..." That's an approximate quote. We weren't taking notes. So, consider a situation like this:

Two fat Elvis Presley impersonators jump off the top of a skyscraper tower, to land on an inflated tube ten stories below. On the other end of that tube, which juts out beyond the edge of the building, is another Nitro Circus performer who is sent flying out into the ozone, with only a parachute to break the 400 something feet fall to his untimely death. The numbers are approximate. The time allowed to pull the ripcord and hope that the parachute fully deploys is minimal. The threat of imminent death is very real. A pro stunt person may call that "idiocy" but we don't know any pro stunt, folk so we can't say. You'll see the result in the movie. Or consider this sequence:

In New York City, a flatbed truck comes speeding down Second Avenue. Approaching 57th street, the driver realizes his brakes aren't working and, rather than taking out the pedestrians crossing said avenue, he aims his truck at the corner street lamp. The lamp stops the truck. The lamp is knocked off its base and smashes a truck on 57th street, waiting to cross the avenue. The globe of the lamp, though, is whipped around by the impact and comes smashing down on the head of a pedestrian (and the net result kinda looks like this). That is called an accident. It is a sequence doesn't happen in Nitro Circus -- it happened to yours Cranky back in 1988 -- but the results of my accident were close enough to a stunt that (nearly kills) actor Jim DeChamp in Nitro Circus the Movie in 3D that I had to step out of the theater. For a second or two. [substitute the roof of a car for the street lamp globe and you'll recognize it when you see it]. We were told by cast member Jolene Van Vugt that DeChamp's back was broken and that he is in recovery. That's fancy talk for "he's damned lucky he wasn't killed in the sequence." Three years, four surgeries and five years of rehab and now, nearly 25 years later, we're still not right. Thanks for asking.

Which is why anyone watching this film shouldn't be so stupid as to try anything they see performed in Nitro Circus: the Movie in 3D. You think that these pro stunt people (many of the group now are) make it look so easy yadda yadda. We can tell you from personal experience that what follows any kind of spinal damage (back or neck) is not something you even want to think about toying with. no more preaching. Promise.

If we follow the basic history of the Nitro Circus correctly, as recounted in the film, the above named kids saw movie stunts and things like Jackass and decided to do it for themselves. Except that they weren't stunt-persons and no one thought about safety nets when learning the ropes by doing tricks on bicycles. Jumping from one pile of dirt to another sounds like nothing when you compare it to jumping between twin skyscraper towers on the equivalent of a motorized Big Wheelz. But it's basically all the same, or that's the gist of Nitro Circus the Movie in 3D whose members use the North Carolina backyard of member Travis Pastrana as a primary training site.

Well, yeah. . . If you want to shoot in America. Stunt-persons carefully choreograph scenes of mass (or minimal) destruction, with all sorts of safeguards hidden out of the camera's line of vision. But there are rules and laws and certain kinds of stunts dreamed up by this team are so dangerous that they cannot be performed, legally, in the good ol' U. S. of A. We'd venture to guess that even the hardiest of (working and not crippled) stunt performers would look at descriptions of some of the things you will see in Nitro Circus the Movie in 3D and say "you can only green screen this."

But these guys do everything live. The only place they can go to do their thing, legally, is down south in Panama. There, just about anything is fair game.

While most of Nitro Circus the Movie in 3D is one setup and stunt after another, the preferred vehicles for doing those stunts seem to be kid-sized scooters and (a motorized) Big Wheelz trike that should be familiar to all who had the things back around age ten. For their purposes, all have oversized engines installed; the Nitro Circus performers may do things that look totally stupid. but that doesn't mean that they are.

Crazy? Yes.

Idiots? Depends on your definition of the word slash actions.

It didn't take very long for us to get past the "look at these idiots..." stage to get to the "I'm enjoying looking at these idiots" stage of watching Nitro Circus: the Movie in 3D.

And I did. It took me a couple of hours -- Cranky is getting old -- to realize that Nitro Circus is a whole messa big, live action, comic book action scene made real. Cranky long ago admitted to being a fanboy of those four-color frolics. So, in the grand tradition, we give a marvelous (sic) thumbs up to Nitro Circus the Movie in 3D.

.'nuff said.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Nitro Circus the Movies in 3D, he would have paid . . .


Add two buck if you still feel like a teenager. Yeah, it's a grand dateflick. You won't remember any of it an hour after it's done but you'll be happy.

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