Monday, February 20, 2012

Kart Kids: Racing Dreams

It is sort of like little league, except way more expense. Yet, the parents and/or guardians of three young drivers bear the costs in hopes their children will move up from the Go-Karts ranks to the NASCAR circuit. The ups and downs of three young karters competing for the national title are documented in Marshall Curry’s Racing Dreams (trailer here), which airs this Thursday on PBS’s POV.

Much like NASCAR, the World Karting Association’s Paving Series allots points towards their championship in five races spread out over the year. Frankly, Brandon Warren looks like the youngest of the trio, but he is in fact the top contender in the WKA’s senior division. Though competing in the junior division, Annabeth Barnes looks like the oldest, lending credence to the notion girls mature faster emotionally than boys. While this is her first season in the juniors, it is likely the final year for Joshua Hobson, who expects to be moving up and out after hopefully winning the juniors.

Executive produced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson before the release of Fast Five, Dreams features plenty of karts going round in circles. However, it offers even more Hoop Dreams style family life, the most dramatic of which centers around Warren. He might indulge in some loud acting out, but it quickly becomes apparent the driver and his patient grandfather have put up with a terrible lot from his drug abusing (and perhaps dealing) father. In contrast, the Barnes and Hobson households are stable and supportive, but the financial burden of karting remains a very real concern.

To Curry’s credit, the film never feels like it is looking down its nose at its NASCAR dreaming subjects. Aside from Warren’s problematic father, they are all deeply faith and family oriented, with tireless work ethics. They definitely believe in sacrificing now for the sake of a better future for the children. Yet, one has to wonder if placing such a large bet on racing is the wisest course of action.

In truth, enthusiasm for motor sports probably helps foster an appreciation for Dreams. Curry and his fellow cinematographers capture the racing action quite clearly, making it all easy to follow, even for novice viewers. The three primary drivers are also all pretty engaging for kids, but tweeners can only possibly be just so interesting. Not essential viewing, but recommended for racing fans and New Yorkers who need to expand their familiarity with the heartland, Dreams can be seen this Thursday (2/23) on most PBS outlets as a special winter presentation of POV.