Combustible Celluloid
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With: Danny Way, Tony Hawk, Rodney Mullen, Rob Dyrdek, Travis Pastrana, Laird John Hamilton, Paul Rodriguez Jr.
Written by: Bret Anthony Johnston
Directed by: Jacob Rosenberg
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for dangerous sports action, some language and thematic material involving drugs and alcohol
Running Time: 96
Date: 06/12/2012

Waiting for Lightning (2012)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Way Out

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In the days leading up to his monumental skateboard jump over the Great Wall of China in 2005, this documentary tells the story of skateboarder Danny Way. Born in Vista, California, Danny had a childhood plagued by the death of his father, the departing of his beloved stepfather, his mother's series of violent boyfriends, his brother's serious injury, and other troubles. He finds escape and success through skateboarding, inventing more and more elaborate stunts, and building bigger and bigger ramps. Finally, it all leads up to the huge, potentially record-breaking, potentially deadly Great Wall jump. Will Danny make it?

"I cannot even imagine what was going through his mind," one interviewee says. Neither can anyone else, because Waiting for Lightning director Jacob Rosenberg never really interviews Danny Way in person. The other interviewees can only speak breathlessly about his bravery and skills, but rarely about his humanity. As a result, he comes across like a cipher, slightly aloof and distant, and slightly reckless and stubborn, and not much like the role model he's painted to be.

It doesn't help that Rosenberg's filmmaking is as pedestrian as it comes, slickly combining dramatic music, heavily edited talking heads, photos, silly dramatic re-creations, and some "cool"-looking skateboard footage. The construction is more like a TV reality show than a work of journalism or personal exploration; it's meant to keep you tuned in without actually revealing anything. The presence of skaters Tony Hawk and Rodney Mullen only serves as a reminder of how good the recent Bones Brigade is by comparison.

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