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Movie Review

‘On Any Sunday’ a little Bull goes a long way

Marc Marquez races at the Circuit of The Americas track in Austin, Texas, in a scene from “On Any Sunday.”Red Bull Content Pool

‘This is a story that spans generations and crosses borders and defies stereotypes,” intones Dana Brown’s voice-over introduction to his numbingly one-note motorcycle movie, “On Any Sunday: The Next Chapter.” “It’s about nothing and everything all at once.”

Despite these grandiose claims, which would seem more appropriate for “Awake,” the documentary about the mystic Yogananda that also opens this week, Brown’s film seems primarily intended to promote the energy drink Red Bull. There are Red Bull signs, caps, banners, and logos in almost every scene. No doubt the Red Bull Media Group is excited about releasing this as its first feature film, but even it should know that a little Bull goes a long way.

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Brown’s documentary ostensibly follows up on his father Bruce’s “On Any Sunday” — a 1971 release that, like the elder Brown’s hit surfing movie “The Endless Summer,” piqued audience’s interest in a cultish extreme sport. Unlike those classic films, however, the fundamental value put forth in Brown’s “Sunday” sequel is not fearlessness but “family.”

Indeed, it opens with the image of a tiny moppet in an oversize helmet (in a rare instance of restraint, without any Red Bull insignia) who climbs onto a tiny motorcycle and zooms out of the frame. No longer the sole demesne of adrenaline junkies as it was back in the old days, and certainly not exclusive to hairy biker gang types, motorcycling — both as a spectator sport and all-consuming participatory
pastime — is something for moms and kids, as well as their macho men. There’s nothing like bikers taking thigh-scraping turns nearly parallel to the pavement, or bodies and bikes pinwheeling in slow motion after 100 m.p.h. wipeouts, to bring families closer together.

Nonetheless, the new “Sunday” first examines the sport as traditional death-defying spectacle, with a daredevil rider performing insanely difficult stunts for audiences who brace themselves for something to go horribly wrong. Considered a successor to the legendary Evel Knievel, Robbie Maddison roars up a ramp, sails into the air, arcs the distance of a football field and lands hard on the other side. Ouch. That man deserves a documentary of his own, perhaps directed by Werner Herzog.

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Instead, he serves only as prologue to Brown’s noisy promo, roughly structured around the fortunes of the leading contestants in the MotoGP circuit championship as they compete in successive meets until a final showdown in Spain. Around and around they go, in close-up, long-shot, shot from a helicopter and from a driver’s eye point of view. Interludes of the next generation of youngsters taking up their elders’ vocation and inspirational stories (such as a racer paralyzed after a spill, who still does reverse somersaults in a specially rigged vehicle) fill in the downtime between laps in this endless speedway. That and the Red Bull product placement. You might need a shot of it to stay awake.

Watch the film’s trailer:

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Peter Keough can be reached at petervkeough@gmail.com.