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3 - The Dale Earnhardt Story (2-Disc Collector's Edition) Print E-mail
Tuesday, 14 December 2004

3 - The Dale Earnhardt Story (2 Disc Collector's Edition)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
MPAA rating: TV-14
starring: Barry Pepper, J. K. Simmons, Elizabeth Mitchell
theatrical release year: n/a
DVD release year: 2004
film rating: Four Stars
sound/picture rating: Three Stars
reviewed by: Mel Odom

Dale Earnhardt is an American hero. He was the racer who wouldn’t quit, who wouldn’t accept losing and who intimidated every other driver on the track. No matter what place he was in during a race, his sole objective was to get in front of the guy ahead of him. In the ESPN Original movie “3,” Earnhardt’s successes and failures – on the track and off – are played out in homage to the man who became a legend.

Chapter 1 begins appropriately enough with the deep growling basso of race car engines rounding a dirt track and the crowd cheering them on. The surround sound system picks up the droning engines passing by from left to right. The mix of car sounds as the camera view moves in and out of the vehicles is awesome, really catching the feel of what it’s like. In short order, viewers are introduced to young Dale Earnhardt’s world as he watches his father Ralph rack up another win.

Ralph is presented very much as the typical family man of that era: tough and quiet. Even though he just won $300, Ralph is still going to be behind on his bills, and that scramble for money is a constant theme that plays through Dale Earnhardt’s younger years. Another thing that shows up in Chapter 1 is the presence of a great soundtrack. Country music kicks in during the scene cuts and montages, and the surround sound system really takes the experience up another notch.

Teenage Dale shows up in Chapter 2 and the effort he makes to win his father’s approval comes forward. Saying that Ralph imparts to Dale crop up all throughout the movie, first when Ralph tells them to Dale, then when Dale tells them to other people and to Dale Jr. The relationship between father and son is reflective of the time. But in these scenes, the viewer understands the differences between Ralph and Dale, that the father is a perfectionist with a plan, and the son is a dreamer with burning desire.

Engine noises blast Chapter 3 into motion and we see Dale trading paint with other racers on a dirt track. He makes the comment that the best racers in the world are the moonshine runners in North Carolina. The viewers are also treated to a view of what the cotton towel mill is like, and why neither Ralph nor Dale wanted to work there. Unfortunately, Dale can’t make enough money at the mill. Despite this, he makes the decision to quit his job and race full time, which puts enough pressure on his marriage to end it. Later, Dale also makes the decision to let his ex-wife and her new husband adopt his son Kerry because they can do more for the boy than he can.

Dale gets into a fight with his father over this decision and Ralph gets totally frustrated. Dale tells him they’re going to be racing against each other. During the race, Ralph pushes Dale into third place to make sure he’s in the money, which ticks off other drivers. Then, at the end of this chapter, Ralph dies, leaving Dale with no opportunity to prove to his father that he has what it takes to be a race car driver.

In Chapter 4, Dale has remarried and has two children by his second wife. Unfortunately, he seems doomed to repeat the same mistakes. No matter how hard things get financially, Dale won’t give up his dreams of racing. He borrows money to race when his family is barely getting by. He even works over Christmas instead of being with them to keep them financially afloat. He promises his wife that he’ll place in every race because third place will feed them and fourth place won’t. In a tire-squealing, metal-ripping race, Dale comes in third, then gets chased away by a gun-toting driver he forced off the track. After running through the woods, Dale makes his way to the street and is picked up by Neil Bonnet, who becomes Dale’s lifelong friend. Dale asks Neil how he feels about the way Dale drives. Neil tells Dale that they aren’t out there to make friends. The dialogue between the two men is real and possesses real humor. Unfortunately, Dale’s win comes too late and his second wife leaves him.

Chapter 5 opens with bumping and scraping impacts that echo through the surround sound system and light up the subwoofer. Tire squeals shriek through the system. Again in this chapter, the soundtrack cranks up a notch, delivering vintage Lynyrd Skynyrd riffs that rock the house. The story moves on through Dale Earnhardt’s life rapidly, showing how he met his third wife Teresa and started stepping into bigger and bigger successes, though not without paying his dues. It builds on the rivalry between Earnhardt and Waldrip as well as the NASCAR mythos.

“3” is destined to become a cable phenomenon, a movie that seems to constantly play somewhere, sometime, on some channel, although the movie doesn’t pry deeply into Earnhardt’s life and doesn’t really go beyond the image that the racing world already knows. The people that really knew him probably have millions of stories to tell about things that Earnhardt did, of experiences he told others about or that they saw him go through.

The bonus materials really shine, though. The features and interviews deliver a deeper, richer story than the movie provides. Or, perhaps, after becoming familiar with the overall arcs of Earnhardt’s life, revisiting the material with a biographer’s view somehow brings an immediacy and poignancy. Barry Pepper does an excellent job portraying Earnhardt, but listening to the real Earnhardt talk, even his spots on the ESPN shows, makes the viewer realize that this man lived for everything he did. It wasn’t just a fluke, and it wasn’t just because he wasn’t talented it or skilled enough to do anything else. Dale Earnhardt could have done something else, but at his essence he was a race car driver.

“3” is a good evening’s investment for the racecar enthusiast, although he or she won’t pick up anything really new from the movie. Still, having a wealth of Earnhardt materials on hand in one convenient two-disc package is well worth the cost. Furthermore, the movie is good entertainment for someone who wants a quiet evening at home with a peek inside the world of NASCAR and the men who drive it. Dale Earnhardt was a hero to millions, a solid, driven man who laid it on the finish line every time he climbed in his car to race. And he is going to be a legend for generations to come.

more details
sound format:
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound; French and Spanish Subtitles
aspect ratio(s):
Widescreen 1.78:1
special features: Exclusive Interview With Dale Earnhardt; An Inside Look At The Legend; Spectacular Racing Footage From Dale’s Best Races on ESPN; The Making Of “3” Featurette; Documentary On The Life and Legacy Of Dale Earnhardt; Extended Interviews With Dale Earnhardt And Others; Guest Appearances in “ESPN’s Two-Minute Drill” and “ESPN Ultimate Outdoors With Wayne Pearson”; Closed Captioned
comments: email us here...
reference system
DVD player: Pioneer DV-C302D
receiver: RCA RT2280
main speakers: RCA RT2280
center speaker: RCA RT2280
rear speakers: RCA RT2280
subwoofer: RCA RT2280
monitor: 42-inch Toshiba

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