12 year-old Trey Caldwell (Nathan Gamble, A DOLPHIN'S TALE) is shattered when his father is killed in Afghanistan, leaving a hole in the boy's life and an unfinished Soap Box Derby car in the garage. A final gift from his dad, the car is a constant reminder of all that could have been. But when Trey meets Roy Gibbs (Corbin Bernsen, L.A. Law, RUST) a grizzled Fire Chief devastated by the loss of his firefighter son on 9/11, a new relationship forms and old wounds finally begin to heal. As the unlikely team works to complete the Soap Box car and train for the upcoming Derby, they'll learn that life isn't about the starting line or checkered flag - it's about the incredible journey in between.
While the soapbox derby has been around a long time, it seems like kind of a retro subject for a film. But that didn't stop Corbin Bernsen from writing, producing, directing and starring in a film about the all-American sport. While soapbox derby isn't the most exciting thing in the world, Bernsen makes it appealing and brings some real moments of excitement to the big screen.
Something else Bernsen does well is bring authenticity to the story. His characters aren't perfect, they don't preach constantly, and there are a couple of outbursts of anti-American sentiment by Roy Gibbs, Bernsen's own character.
"Grizzled" is a great way to describe him. Sporting grizzly whiskers and a face that seems to be perpetually creased by frowns, Gibbs believes the American Dream is dead. But Trey Caldwell may be just the young man to prove him wrong.
Nathan Gamble's performance as the young Trey is spot on, and he is the heart and soul of this film. Bernsen directs him in giving a balanced and strong performance that rivals many young actors working today. It's clear Gamble has a great future.
Rounding out the cast are favorites from various television series: Ralph Waite [The Waltons], Michael Tucker [L.A. Law] and Timothy Omundson [Psych]. Each brings their own unique sensibilities to small but key roles that elevate the overall level of the film.
Bringing It Back
Along with the normal hopes for a successful, Bernsen hopes to help raise funds for the sport with this film. And why not? Many films, especially in the faith market, have developed tie-ins to organizations that have natural connections to the film subjects. It doesn't detract any from the artistry of a well-told film.
In an interview, Bernsen talked about getting the small details right to give the appearance of a bigger budget. I think he got it right. The look and feel are realistic, not hi-def, performances are solid and genuine, and the music underscores the action perfectly.
Bernsen has a winner on his hands, and hopefully this all-American sport will experience the revival it deserves.
Courtesy of a national publicist, Angela previewed 25 HILL, which is now available on DVD [click HERE].