For High School Musical fans unwaveringly devoted to Corbin Bleu, Free Style provides ample opportunity to swoon over the former East High basketballer’s big floppy hair and Disney Channel-grade emoting. In the latest from Harry and the Hendersons helmer William Dear, Bleu is Cale, a wannabe motocross pro with countless problems: his single mom (Penelope Anne Miller) is financially strapped and gets into a car accident; his girlfriend (Tegan Moss) fools around with his evil rival (Matt Bellefleur); his absentee father (Michael Ryan) doesn’t want anything to do with him; and the dad of his new love interest Alex (Sandra Echeverria) would like him to disappear. Though burdened by such issues, most of which contain some facile socio-economic or racial component, Cale remains an honest, hard-working, never-say-die sweetheart, so much so that he even tolerates his friend’s (Jesse Moss) unbearable habit of punctuating every sentence with “bro!” Piling on dramatic conflicts destined to be resolved in fairy tale fashion, Free Style never gets out of first gear save for when it successfully panders to its target audience, who will undoubtedly be pleased with the soundtrack inclusion of Nickelback and the sight of a shirtless Bleu. Still, regardless of this fleeting nudity, Dear’s film is an aggressively chaste affair, to the point that it avoids any images of drinking even when implying that people are drunk, and has Bleu express mild shock and dismay at his little sister Bailey (Madison Pettis) uttering the unspeakable profanity “fart-head.” Motocross thrills, meanwhile, are negated by close-ups that are too tight and editing that leaves spatial dynamics perplexing. Ultimately, the only thing going for Free Style is its initial blasé attitude toward mixed race families. Any pleasure one might take from such open-mindedness, however, is quickly torn asunder by Bailey asking Cale, “Are we black or white?” and Cale cornily responding, “We’re whack,” an anachronistic term that nonetheless ably describes this family-friendly twaddle.
- Samuel Goldwyn Films
- 94 min
- William Dear
- Jeffrey Nicholson, Joshua Liebner
- Corbin Bleu, Madison Pettis, Sandra Echeverria, Tegan Moss, Matt Bellefleur, Michael Ryan, Jesse Moss, Penelope Ann Miller
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: