Judge Paul Corupe lives his life a quarter-mile at a time.
"Some people have way too much money."—IASCA audience member
In the pantheon of bad taste, there's undoubtedly a special section reserved for custom imports. The success of films like The Fast and the Furious have truly mainstreamed imports as the car of choice for modern customization buffs, and the latest release in Lightyear's new series of automotive DVDs is an attempt to cash in on this fad. Neon Tuners features the best of the custom imports shown at the Spring Break Nationals in Daytona Beach; cars decked out with booming sound systems, bright paint jobs, neon tube highlights, and as the liner notes put it, "all the latest Car Bling-Bling."
Sponsored by the International Auto Sound Challenge Association (IASCA), the Spring Break Nationals have grown from a simple battle of obnoxiously loud car stereos to a full three-day custom import convention featuring decidedly non-car related events like bikini and pizza eating contests. Neon Tuners focuses almost exclusively on a "Glow-Off," a nighttime competition in which custom imports and other cars roll through a parking lot boasting enough strobe effects to cause debilitating seizures in curious pedestrians. Neon tubing, blinking LEDs, strobe-modified headlights, and luminescent interiors are all on display for a team of judges and a large audience of onlookers.
Between competitions, there are several interviews with the owners of these high-school video dance parties on wheels. While the other releases in this series provided some technical context in their interviews, Neon Tuners stars inarticulate kids who seem at a loss to explain the appeal of their cars. "It gets people's attention" is a frequent response, as is "Well, it's better than doing drugs."
Now, admittedly, some of these problems could have been forgiven if the custom imports presented in this film were aesthetically pleasing in any way. I have great respect for innovators like George Barris and Ed Roth who created outlandish and stylish custom automobiles in the 1960s, designs that have stood the test of time. However, adding a PlayStation, dozens of neon light tubes, and lightning globes purchased from Spenser Gifts to a lime green import will someday seem as outdated as airbrushing a mural of a half-naked woman riding a Siberian tiger on a 1974 Chevy van.
On the plus side, Neon Tuners is honored with the best video presentation of any of the DVDs in Lightyear's series. Perhaps because it only contains very recent footage, colors appear mostly solid with reasonably deep blacks. Sound is still a problem, with another thin, treble-heavy, track. There are no special features, and the menu is a chapter selection screen.
Although the owners of these cars praise the Spring Break Nationals as a foundation for ideas, they seem more like a marketing gimmick for IASCA Glow-Off sponsor StreetGlow, a company that manufactures a wide variety of lighting products for cars. This may explain why Neon Tuners usually feels more like an infomercial for neon undercar kits than an actual showcase of custom imports. I doubt that the tackiness on display in this DVD would be of interest to anyone not already an IASCA member.
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