BY: JAY RAMEY
It’s always a gamble when a film studio does a movie about racing of any sort. Hollywood has done Formula 1 and NASCAR with varying degrees of success, finally deciding that NASCAR is better done as a comedy while Formula 1 needs a heavy dose of plot signposts to get a general American audience through the intricacies of the sport. But now, it’s dirt track racing’s turn in the spotlight.
A bearded and strangely accented John Travolta stars alongside Shania Twain and Michael Madsen in “Trading Paint,” a drama about dirt track racing filmed in Alabama. Travolta’s blue-collar character appears to have been dialed up way past 11, right down to a nametag on his shirt, a well-worn baseball cap and the obligatory fight in a bar with interior decorations from 1980.
Madsen plays the villain, of course, with the help of his trademark hat (when was the last time Madsen did not wear a cowboy hat in a film?), while Twain appears to be in the cast to lend the film some Southern credibility. Meanwhile, Toby Sebastian plays Travolta’s impatient and rebellious son who wants to strike out on his own and comes under the influence of the villain, a plot twist revealed in the trailer, forcing Travolta’s character to get back into racing — another plot point revealed in the trailer. Kevin Dunn (playing a character nicknamed Stumpy), Buck Taylor and Luis Da Silva round out the genuinely impressive cast — how did they get all these actors together? — while Karzan Kader directs.
If the trailer is any indication, the accents in this movie are going to be spectacular, but it’s never a good sign when one can tell the general direction of the plot within the first 10 seconds of a two-minute trailer. There’s even the obligatory father-son tension and plenty of stuff-throwing in a garage, enough to trigger a flashback to episodes of “American Chopper.” Hopefully, some plot twists that aren’t visible in the trailer are on the way, but we’re going to buckle up in a six-point harness in preparation for a nonstop parade of accents and stereotypes of the rural American South all the same.
The main question we have at this point is: If Shania Twain is playing a character in this movie, does Shania Twain the country singer exist in this universe?
“Trading Paint” opens Feb. 22.