posted on Dec, 6 2004 @ 06:14 PM
here is a review of the dale earnhardt movie that will be on espn this weekend...looks like it might be pretty good
ESPN chronicles the life of Dale Earnhardt
By MARK WASHBURN
The Charlotte Observer
His first two wives had this in common: They both figured there'd be room in Dale Earnhardt's life for marriage and racing.
When the first got tired of finishing a distant second, she left with their baby.
When the second reached the same desperate conclusion, she left a note:
"You got racing."
Thus the makers of ESPN's latest TV movie, "3", demonstrate the obsessive zeal Earnhardt had for his sport, rising from the grease of his father's
Kannapolis garage to the ranks of NASCAR royalty.
Corners get cut whenever a life is reduced to a two-hour television biodrama, but overall ESPN's approach to the Dale Earnhardt story is evenhanded, a
family tale at its core with a swirl of racing throughout.
Filmed in the Charlotte area, "3" begins with Dale as a youngster waiting for his dad outside the textile mill gates. Ralph Earnhardt's passion was
also racing, and eventually he left his mill job to pursue his dream on the dirt tracks.
In "3," the elder Earnhardt (played by J.K. Simmons, perhaps best known for his role as the barking tabloid editor in "Spider Man") has a tough-love
relationship with his son. The boy is drawn to the racing world, working under the hood on his dad's car but never quite measuring up in his father's
eyes.When Dale quits high school to pursue racing full time, his father berates him for making the same mistake he did and dooming his future to mill
work. And father knew best. It was to mill work that Dale had to turn.
But he inherited from his dad both a passion for racing and an ability to intimidate competitors on the track, sometimes with fender muscle.
And finally, he wins from his father the affirmation he had sought so long, a simple observation that validated his organic need for speed.
"They can't put it in you," Ralph tells Dale. "And they can't take it out."
A career blur
Earnhardt goes on in the '70s to a career in the NASCAR spotlight. In 1978, he gets to run in the Charlotte 600. It was also the day he met Teresa
Houston (played by Elizabeth Mitchell, "The Santa Clause 2"), who would become his third wife.
Dale and Teresa's marriage is portrayed as a fifth-gear relationship, largely smooth and uncomplicated, a stretch for a partnership of such strong
When their son, Dale Jr., tries to quit school to make his mark in racing, he is summarily shipped off to military school by his father, with Teresa
weeping on the sidelines as the obedient wife.
Eventually, Dale must come to terms with his obligations of fatherhood, including reconciliation with the son he barely knew from his first marriage,
a journey that echoes the relationship he had with his own father.
From the pits of realism
NASCAR fans know what's what and what isn't, providing a challenge to the producers who had to strive for detailed realism."This is a movie we had to
get right or just not do," said Burke Magnus, an ESPN vice president. "You'd better get the man right, you'd better get the racing right."
Barry Pepper (from HBO's Roger Maris story, "61*") plays Dale Earnhardt from ages 16 to 49 and strikes a haunting resemblance with the help of facial
prosthetics, wigs and studied mannerisms.
Pepper's homework for the role included tutoring for 170-mph spins at the Fast Track driving school in Cabarrus County.
ESPN found more than track tips there. UNC Charlotte student Chad McCumbee, who's been racing since age 10, was an instructor at the school. He was
spotted by Pepper, who noticed McCumbee bore a striking resemblance to Dale Earnhardt Jr.
McCumbee was subsequently cast in the role, his first acting gig, and did most of his own driving stunts.
Dale Earnhardt at age 10 is portrayed by Zachary Smith, a 10-year-old from Columbia, who's been seen in national commercials for products like
Valvoline and Invisible Fence.
He's got one of the most amusing scenes in the show, a bit where he steals Ralph Earnhardt's pickup, using a stick to work the clutch. The truck was
mounted on a trailer for Smith's driving scene, but it comes off realistically.
Tracks play many roles
Because Lowe's Motor Speedway was booked with other events during much of the movie's filming, little could be shot there, although its canyon-like
grandeur shines through in interspersed archival footage.
Eagle-eyed race fans will recognize sections of the N.C. Speedway outside Rockingham playing multiple roles as NASCAR tracks across the country.
A house in Kannapolis in the shadow of the old Cannon Mills plant was used as Earnhardt's boyhood home. A garage was built there to portray Ralph
Earnhardt's race shop.
In all, more than 1,000 extras recruited from the area were used, many in the racing sequences.
A finish at the end
Anyone interested in the Earnhardt story will be wondering how producers intend to finish the family-centric drama. It is with the final scene that
"3" qualifies in the ranks of front-runners.
It ends, as it should, in the last lap of 2001's Daytona 500, the crash unfolding with an unexpected and effectively mystical touch, one that closes
the circle on the Earnhardt family circuit.
One comes away with the realization that the title "3" is not just the number of Earnhardt's car, but it's about the triumvirate of Ralph, Dale and