"I'm living the dream. Reality hasn't set in."
Keep Your Eyes Open is the first attempt to craft an honest movie about action sports. Hoping to appeal to a wider audience, director Tamra Davis (Crossroads, Half Baked, Best Men) decided to open up the movie and not travel down familiar roads. First, the film would not focus on one single action sport. It wouldn't only be about skateboarding, skiing, BMX, or just one of the others. Next, and more importantly, it wouldn't be filled with fake characters who enjoy saying "dude" a lot. This film would be filled with celebrities from within the sports, bringing authenticity to the tale. She was hoping this combination would give the film some credibility and not feel like a 90-minute Mountain Dew commercial.
Facts of the Case
So, what exactly is an action sport? There are quite a few, and most of them are what you'd find if you were to flip over to the X-Games on ESPN. For this film, only six of the most popular were chosen; and for each sport, at least one celebrity from that area would propel "the story" forward. The six sports and their stars are: skateboarding with Steve Berra and Eric Koston; skiing with Seth Morrison; motocross with Travis Pastrana; BMX with Mat Hoffman; snowboarding with Mike and Tina Basich (brother and sister) and Mark Frank Montoya; and surfing with Sunny Garcia and Bruce and Andy Irons (brothers).
Actually, it's an exaggeration to use the term "story" because this film doesn't have one. Well, it barely has one, and it's just enough to move things along for 77 minutes. Basically, the film introduces the terrifically talented teenagers (at least they all look like teens to me) for each sport, we get some interview time, and then we watch them do their thing—successfully most of the time, but many crashes are tossed in for good measure. The movie quickly intercuts amongst the sports; it's not set up so that you watch six vignettes about six sports. Everyone and everything is interwoven. The only veneer of a story is in our skateboarding section, where, in order to showcase illegal street skating, Steve and Eric are "chased" by two university rent-a-cops, played by Mike D and Spike Jonze (Adaptation). This allows us to see the boys do their thing without really getting into trouble. This section is really pretty corny, with intentionally bad acting and an over-the-top ending.
I'm not a big X-Games fan; in fact, I've never watched them. However, I have enjoyed watching each of these sports because these "kids" really are good. I'm always amazed at what they can do and how they don't end up killing themselves with some of their more radical tricks. Personally, my least favorite of the crop would be the skateboarders. It's not because I don't appreciate what they do, but it's just a carryover from real life. I hope I'm not alone in this, but when you're driving and you see a skater haven't you said something like, "Skater, 10 points!" I'm just annoyed by skaters because they get in the way. They're always skating in parking lots and places you want to be, damaging property with their boards (plus, I'm a big old curmudgeon and those darn kids have no respect!). On the other hand, all the other sports depicted are things I can only see from afar, so I appreciate them more. I'm especially fond of the motocross and BMX segments—which must come from my time playing "Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2" on my GameCube. I was very impressed by what Travis was doing with his bike, not to mention the fact that the guy's pretty personable as well.
But as much as I enjoy watching these sports, I didn't especially enjoy watching Keep Your Eyes Open. With my short attention span, I found I really didn't want to watch these guys (and one girl) do their thing for 77 minutes. I was getting fidgety and antsy within the first 20 minutes. For me, a simple observer and not a true fan, it all got repetitive rather quickly. How many times can I watch them ride a rail, jump a dirt mound, do a grind, clip a tube, or catch some air off a mogul? It was simply too much of the same thing over and over again. Fortunately, the brief snippets of interviews do help to break up the building monotony, but it just isn't enough. I'm personally better off catching clips on TV and not watching a film like this.
Regardless of my burgeoning A.D.D., this film is not bad; it's simply not to my tastes. I want to give Tamra and the celebrities kudos for what they've accomplished with this film. For once, you get an honest look at these sports without all the clichés thrown in. You can see the dedication and strength needed to succeed, even if most of them are doing it just for fun. Keep Your Eyes Open tries to wash away all the silliness we've come to expect because of those Mountain Dew commercials and such dreadful films like Extreme Ops. Tamra has succeeded and done a good job in making a real movie about action sports.
What is perhaps the most impressive thing about Keep Your Eyes Open is the gorgeous cinematography. Presented in letterboxed full frame and "filmed in stunning 35mm," Keep Your Eyes Open is actually stunning, and it has been quite a while since I've seen a disc with such a realistic video transfer. For nearly the entire film I felt that I was actually there, watching the kids do their thing. From the mountains of Alaska to the shores of Hawaii to the back hills of Maryland, this film looks awesome. The colors are superbly rendered and shockingly lifelike, supported by deep blacks. It all comes together to sport fantastic details across the board. Unfortunately, I did detect a flash of artifacting and a little shimmer; but these are truly inconsequential to the overall presentation. It is magnificent.
Luckily the strong video is bolstered by an equally impressive Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. Filled with an aggressive soundtrack, Keep Your Eyes Open will rock your house. The packaging lists a bunch of people I've never heard of, yet I thought it was a great mix of punk and techno (at least that's what I would call it) that nicely accentuated the onscreen action. As for the rest, the mix shines with clear dialogue and excellent use of the surrounds and woofer.
There are some additional features on this disc, but I wasn't too keen on these either. The biggie is the audio commentary with Tamra Davis and Tina Basich (the snowboarder)—the only two women significantly involved with the project. They have a very lively discussion about the movie, the sports, and a lot of related items. As someone outside just looking in, most of it didn't appeal to me, but I think fans will get a kick out of what the ladies have to say. Next up are extended interviews/deleted scenes with the Basiches, Hoffman, Pastrana, Garcia, Montoya, and Morrison. Seeing as I was bored, I think some of this should have been left in the film to break up the routine. Next on the list is a "Sports Sound Effects Gallery," which is really, really lame. With a menu listing each sport, you click on one and get a clip of sounds you'd normally hear during that event. It might work better if there were a submenu from which you could pick out the sounds yourself. Lastly are a couple trailers for Boat Trip and Motown.
All in all, I think this is very well-produced film and disc.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Besides finding myself sliding into boredom a bit too quickly with this film, there are just three other little problems that need to be brought up. Earlier, I went through and told you the stars of each sport. I only did that in case you knew them, for as soon as the names went by, I forgot who they were. Again, this makes the disc more palatable to fans. Of slightly more importance is that the menu design is poor because the print is too small. I had to squint to see the choices. And, last, subtitles should always be included on a disc, even one where the visuals are more important than the words.
On a positive note, I really thought the "Can't Touch This" opening sequence was hilarious.
I am not the target audience for this disc. Still, on some level I enjoyed seeing what these talented people could do, but it got stale after a short while. Fans of action sports should really enjoy this film with its varied look at the different people and what they can do with their equipment. Add to that the glorious video, solid audio tracks, and some decent bonus features, and Keep Your Eyes Open is something that action sports fans would do well to own. As such, I highly recommend this film for fans of the X-Games, but I don't recommend it for anyone else. This is a niche disc that will greatly satisfy those in the know.
Keep Your Eyes Open is hereby found not guilty on all charges.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary with director Tamra Davis and Tina Basich
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