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Saturday, May 24, 2014

RIDE FOR LANCE -- DVD review by porfle

Heartfelt but dull, the 2013 documentary RIDE FOR LANCE proves that the best intentions don't always make for the best viewing.

The "Lance" of the title is Chief Petty Officer Lance Michael Vaccaro, a young Navy SEAL who was killed in a skydiving training accident on March 6th, 2008.  Up till then,  he and his friend and fellow SEAL Jim Graham had often discussed making a motorcycle tour of the USA not unlike the expedition undertaken in the television mini-series "Long  Way Round" (the sequel of which we reviewed here.) 

It was just the sort of adventure,  we come to learn through numerous anecdotes from friends and family (in addition to a wealth of old video footage and photographs), which the fun-loving Vaccaro would've thrived upon. 

As our  current story opens, Graham and mutual friend Scott Letellier have decided to carry on by making the ride themselves in Lance's honor.  The jaunt quickly blossoms into a high-profile event with TV news coverage and various sponsors donating bikes and other goods. 

By the time Jim, Scott, and their ever-increasing entourage (including Lance's mom, Christine Vaccaro) embark on the 12,000-mile journey along with the rest of their caravan, there are patriotic fans and well-wishers waiting to greet them from every street corner and overpass from Virginia to Alaska. 

The video camera follows this group from town to town and documents their initial surprise at such a warm reception from a wide range of Americans.  We see them getting VIP escorts by local motorcycle cops plus free gasoline, food, and lodging at several stops.  Along with these, of course, come the inevitable bad weather, mishaps, and mechanical difficulties that accompany any trip of this nature.

The downside to all of this--as far as the viewer is concerned--is that it's all presented in a no-frills, home-video-level style and composed of a seemingly endless series of bland travelogue shots, talking head segments, and occasionally puzzling digressions.  (At one point, Scott offers us a lengthy close-up of his injured foot.) 

There are only so many scenes we need to see of people sitting around motel rooms toasting or singing odes to Lance, or relating some anecdote of the day's events while a nearby engine sound drowns out their words.  Such material is often awkwardly blended with the travel footage, and seldom does it all build up any momentum toward a meaningful conclusion. Worst of all, things are occasionally allowed to become overly sentimental and even maudlin.

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with stereo sound.  No subtitles or extras.  For each DVD purchased, Anchor Bay Entertainment will make a donation to the Navy SEAL Foundation.

Navy veteran Scott Mactavish ("Murph: The Protector") is to be commended for producing, writing, and directing this emotional tribute to a fallen American hero.  It's definitely well-intentioned, and I'm glad I watched it.  But this only makes me regret it more having to report that, as a documentary, RIDE FOR LANCE fails to be as interesting or moving as one would hope.

Official site
Street date: May 27


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