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ESPN's Ultimate X

  ESPN's Ultimate X
Yet another stunt you shouldn't try at home unless there's absolutely no chance you'll be caught.

© 2002, Touchstone
All Rights Reserved

"Ultimate X" (IMDb listing) purports to take the viewer into the heart of the 2001 X Games in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They even went so far as to bring Imax cameras with them to capture the footage in all its Mountain Dew-enhanced glory. But does anyone really care to see skateboarding three stories high?

The box office genie has been very kind to large format pictures (be careful not to say Imax anymore!), ranging from Disney's wildly successful "Fantasia 2000" to the unstoppable "Everest." It makes the very appearance of "Ultimate X" a little strange, as there just isn't anything here that needs to be captured by the Imax cameras, but I can understand the need to grab a little piece of the pie. Seeing a motorcycle do flips is fun, but hardly large-format worthy. There is enough material and blandly catchy power pop tunes to make the 45 minutes pass with ease, but "Ultimate X" is hardly gripping stuff.

"Ultimate X" goes wrong when the filmmakers appear to be editing the picture like any other run-of-the-mill sports documentary. They employ slow-motion, "Oops, I just dropped my Uzi" fast cutting and one-dimensional X Game personalities to help speed things along, without much care to utilizing the rare chance they have to capture this event with the large format aesthetic. In fact, the film's rare use of the gigantic screen size is during a run down a street luge course. It should come as no surprise that this sequence is a film highlight. "Ultimate X" plays like a documentary you would see when a baseball game has a rain delay, or when the feed for "Frasier" is lost. Only now, the little MTV-style quirks and touches that barely register on the small screen are amplified in the worst way to the, huge screen. In place of the expected awe and stunned silence in witnessing these "athletes" perform their feats of absurdity, I mostly just rummaged through my pockets looking for headache medicine.

"Ultimate X" is also a bit misleading. While the picture is presented as a documentary on the entire X Games, we only see a handful of events. Glimpses of water sports, and more interesting skateboarding and motorcycle events are included in the end credits, but the film is mostly concerned with motorcycle jumps and half-pipes. I came out of the theater knowing even less about the games than when I walked in! This shell game with the facts is emblematic of the slight "Ultimate X," a film that should've stayed on ESPN.

Filmfodder Grade: C

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