Race the Sun - * *

Disney delivers yet another variation on the “teacher inspires kids” flick, which is surprisingly much better than it could have been. Location: Hawaii. Teacher: Halle Berry, playing an English teacher assigned to teach science. Kids: the lolos (a group of lower class, teenage underachievers). Inspirational gimmick: a solar car race. Well…Berry doesn’t do much in the way of inspiring…she merely assigns the kids to attend a science fair, where they tangle with an obnoxious group of preppy students entering the race. More out of a spirit of revenge than any unquenchable thirst for learning, the lolos decide to join in the race. There are the enemies: the preppies in the qualifying race, and the EVIL GERMANS (well, okay, they’re called the ‘European Team’) in the final cross-Australia run. Of course, as is standard with this genre, several of the kids are underappreciated geniuses, and the rest have supposedly endearing personality quirks (there’s the rebel, the flirt, the tough guy, etc.) And, as usual, there are the requisite messages: teamwork, don’t give up, if you can dream it, you can do it. James Belushi joins the troupe as a shop teacher who regains his faith in the students, and is never quite as funny as he wants to be. Despite all that, the film joins its preachiness with a bit of fun. Frightening as it may seem, some of the kids’ enthusiasm and perkiness actually rubs off, making the movie watchable, if not great.

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