By Matt Brunson
RACING DREAMS (2010)
DIRECTED BY Marshall Curry
STARS Brandon Warren, Annabeth Barnes
A Spellbound or Mad Hot Ballroom for the NASCAR set, Racing Dreams ends up speeding past its niche market and working its magic on anyone with a rooting interest in the dreams and ambitions of this country's youth.
Like the aforementioned pair of documentaries, this one also corrals a group of kids and tracks their endeavors to become the best in their field of interest. In this case, it's the world of racing, with all three subjects top contenders in the World Karting Association's championship series. Twelve-year-old Josh Hobson of Birch Run, Michigan, is a brainy boy whose methodical, sensible approach to the sport repeatedly wins races. Eleven-year-old Annabeth Barnes of Hiddenite, N.C., is a spunky, charismatic girl who dreams of becoming the first female to win a major NASCAR race.
Both kids are interesting to follow, yet the movie belongs to the third focal point. Thirteen-year-old Brandon Warren of Creedmoor, N.C., initially seems the least complicated, a good-ole-boy-in-training whose reckless nature (on and off the track) might prove to be his undoing. Yet as we get to learn more about Brandon and his family — specifically, the grandparents who lovingly raise him and the deadbeat dad who turns up like an unwelcome wart whenever he's not behind bars — we come to realize that this story is the most involving, and most poignant, one in the movie.
The racing footage shot and edited by Marshall Curry and his team is exemplary (the first competition takes place at Charlotte Motor Speedway) and should thrill even those who aren't fans of the sport. Yet even these sequences take a back seat to the sagas of the children, all of whom retain pole position throughout this engaging picture.
(Racing Dreams will be screening on PBS at various times beginning this Thursday, Feb. 23. Go here for local programming details. The film is also available on DVD.)