Off the Grid (NR)
Pikes Peak Center
It used to be that ski junkies wouldn't need a review of a film like this. If it was fall, and there was a single snowflake in the mountains, then seeing the annual Warren Miller Entertainment production was the next logical step in preparing for the season.
But nowadays, the annual Warren Miller movie really has little to do with Warren Miller: 2004's Impact was the last film to which the octogenarian contributed. Both last year's Higher Ground and this year's Off the Grid are products of Time, Inc., which bought the enterprise a few years back. And there's been some grumbling among loyalists about changes most notably, a perceived increase in product placement.
The names "Burton" and "Salomon" do make a number of appearances in Off the Grid. But if you're considering seeing this film, there are three more important things you should know.
No. 1: You will see some beautiful stuff. Cases in point: A skier-triggered avalanche, breathtaking and frightening, in the movie's opening sequence; Lynsey Dyer, Chris Anthony and Mike Mannelin hiking knife edges around Moonlight Basin in Montana; brothers Zach and Reggie Crist taking a helicopter ride to Alaska's Chugach Mountains.
Also worth noting are some gorgeous images of Kashmir, India, which plays host to Dan Treadway, Manu Gaidet and Shroder Baker. Footage of the three men teaching Indian kids to ski is heartwarming almost enough so to make you forget that, just a minute before, while watching the Indians trade vegetables with one another, one skier had made a comment about not "ordering the salad." Which brings us to point No. 2.
No. 2: You will hear some very stupid commentary. In Off the Grid, you'll still hear Miller; the filmmakers have culled one-liners from a few of his 55 previous films and spliced them in here, between Primal Scream and Audioslave cuts.
Unfortunately, they're overshadowed by quotes like these:
"The mountains are my office. At least when they have snow on them."
"For me, skiing is just such a cool thing."
Perhaps the worst culprit is the film's narrator, former University of Colorado football star and Olympic skier Jeremy Bloom. While you can't argue his athletic pedigree the film opens with him in Philadelphia Eagles football training camp you can argue that neither his weak voice nor the script does him any favors.
"Alaska's been around a lot longer than the people who come here to challenge themselves. If and when you decide you're ready for it, it'll be here for you, too." Or: "Like he does every year, Chris [Anthony] proves that off the grid isn't just a place; it's a state of mind."
Which, yes, brings me to the final point.
No. 3: You will often be reminded that you're "off the grid."
And this re-introduction of plot line is jarring. Yes, from the beginning, this film purports to take viewers closer to the skiers they know and places they don't. But each segment lasts about 10 minutes an awkward timeframe when the formula also dedicates about eight of those minutes to carving, jumping and tricks.
It makes Off the Grid feel a little forced something you wouldn't expect from a film dedicated to celebrating a unique sense of freedom.
There is magic in this Warren Miller film, but it's in the mountains themselves. And you probably don't need a movie to remind you of that.