3: THE DALE EARNHARDT STORY
MOVIE: ** (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5)
Barry Pepper as DALE EARNHARDT
J.K. Simmons as RALPH EARNHARDT
Elisabeth Mitchell as TERESA EARNHARDT
Sean Bridgers as NEIL BONNETT
Directed by: Russell Mulcahy
BY KEVIN CARR
Okay, let’s get something straight. I’m not a NASCAR fan. I’m not a racing fan. I’m really not into cars, even. When it comes to watching racing, I’m more like the naive wife of a NASCAR fan. All I really see is a bunch of cars going in circles.
I remember when Dale Earnhardt died, and I remember how it rocked the world – especially the racing world. While I never knew much about Dale Earnhardt, I was very aware of how he was worshipped on the circuit. And while he is arguably the most famous NASCAR driver that has ever lived, he received most of his mainstream attention after his death.
“3” is an original ESPN film that tells the life of this sports legend. It is competently put together and goes beyond your standard made-for-TV feel that soaks most films produced by your average cable network.
The biggest thing that stood out for me with this film was how the filmmakers portrayed Dale Earnhardt. The guy was jerk! He was a real jerk! I don’t mean to speak ill of the dead, but I’m just going on what I saw in this movie. He was a weak father who perpetuated the emotional abuse from his father, and he didn’t appear to have the best skills in dealing with his wives.
Now, I know the point was to show what a strong-willed man his own father was, but he was an even bigger jerk to Dale than Dale is to Dale Jr. It reminds me of a time I went to a family funeral and the men in my family made a rather obvious point to not stand on my great grandfather’s grave. I was surprised at how much respect they gave Grandpap, even years after his death. I later made a comment to my uncle about impressed I was at how the family honored him.
My uncle responded, “You never knew your Grandpap, Kevin. He was not a nice man.”
And that’s when I first learned that respect is sometimes gained from intimidation rather than honor.
Now, as a NASCAR driver, Dale Earnhardt was one of the best. And intimidation was his game. Heck, it was his name. But driving alone does not make a great man. And this is a puff piece. Imagine how much of a jerk he would have appeared if they weren’t trying to pay honor to a legend!
Still, “3” is a decent film that hits on what appear to be the significant turning points in Earnhardt’s career. Not having been a fan, I haven’t watched much footage of Dale Earnhardt, but I was impressed with Barry Pepper’s acting job. Prosthetics or not, Pepper does a fine job bringing the legend back to life, and successfully playing the character over the course of decades without looking like a 30-year-old dressed as a high school kid.
The DVD comes with two discs. The first contains the film and commentary, plus some behind-the-scenes featurettes about the movie and Dale Earnhardt himself. The second disc is a NASCAR junkie’s wet dream. It contains every scrap of film or tape the folks at ESPN could piece together that highlighted Dale Earnhardt. Not only are there hours of footage of Earnhardt’s most significant races from ESPN, but there’s also other appearances by Dale Earnhardt out of the driver’s seat.
So, if you can’t get enough of Dale Earnhardt, at least you can watch him elk hunt and be a featured guest on talk shows and game shows.
Specifications: Dolby Digital Surround Sound. French language track. Spanish subtitles. English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.