Review: Family comedy ‘Shifting Gears’ lurches and grinds
Dirt track racing may have its fans, but in “Shifting Gears” it doesn’t prove a particularly exciting arena around which to build a heartland-friendly family comedy. The result, although earnest, is often tepid, overly broad stuff that evokes 1970s-era “Eat My Dust”-type indies filtered through a Disney prism.
Writer R. Keith Harris (also a producer) plays Tom Williamson, a big-box store manager who’s transferred by his distracted supervisor (a scenery-chewing C. Thomas Howell) to another state. At the same time, Tom is left a small-town gas station-garage by his late, estranged father, so he decides instead to pack up his family — wife Carol (Brooke Langton), college-age son Jeremy (Adam Hicks) and tween daughter Stephy (Tate Clemons) — and make a go of it.
A series of obstacles — some credible, some contrived — put the garage in the crosshairs of both a fat-cat land developer (John Ratzenberger) and Tom’s ex-boss, leaving the strapped Tom one option: to win the $50,000 first prize in the “U.S. Open of dirt track racing.” With the help of a former racing champ (M.C. Gainey), the Williamsons jump into the contest.
But when the film, directed by Jason Winn, should accelerate, it turns sluggish, attempting to dot a few too many i’s — thematically, emotionally, racing-wise — in telling its only marginally compelling story, with the lackluster Tom-Jeremy dynamic driving too much of the action.
Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes
Playing: Simi Valley 10 Cinemas; also on VOD
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