The Pinewood Derby is a miniature version of the Soapbox Derby that millions of kids under age 12 have enjoyed. Created by a California Boy Scout Cubmaster in 1953, the derbies take place indoors using cars handmade out of 5-by-7-inch pinewood rectangles and raced on polished wooden tracks. (If you hurry, you can see a derby display at the Carmike Cinema 10, where the film is showing.) Like many competitive kids projects (beauty pageants, spelling bees, chess games and college entrance exams, to name a few), parents often get too involved — especially those adults who have childhood insecurities to resolve.
Thus the story in Derby is about a quartet of obsessive fathers (Greg Germann, Perry Anzilotti, Ross Brockley, Mark Raymond) who push their sons aside and take control of researching, designing and testing the small racers. This Daddy-first behavior seems to be a common phenomenon, because the several families who attended the screening where I saw Derby found the movie hilarious and enjoyed it immensely.
Derby, which is endorsed by the Boy Scouts of America, is free of four-letter words, sex and drugs. Alas, I found it also free of logic, charm, dramatic structure and acting ability. In the film’s defense, since I’ve never made a pinewood racer, I’m sure all the in-jokes left me clueless.
For more information on the Pinewood Derby, check out the movie’s excellent Web site: www.downandderby.com. Rated PG for some crude humor, sensuality and brief mild language.
— reviewed by Marci Miller