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Corbin Bleu crashes in "Free Style"

Actor Corbin Bleu arrives at the 14th annual Critics' Choice awards, January 8, 2009. REUTERS/Hector Mata

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Big-haired Disney Channel veteran Corbin Bleu (“High School Musical”) makes a failed bid for stardom in this anemic, would-be inspirational vehicle that manages to make even motocross racing seem deadly dull.

While “Free Style” displays some unlikely thematic ambition in its depiction of a mixed-race family, it otherwise comes across as a compendium of inspirational cliches. The Samuel Goldwyn Films release opened Friday, earning a puny $98,000 in 260 theaters for the weekend.

Bleu plays Cale Bryant, struggling along with his single mom (Penelope Ann Miller) and cutesy sister (Madison Pettis) to make a go of it in the Pacific Northwest. Cale works as a pizza deliveryman and electronics store salesman, but what he really yearns for is stardom on the motocross circuit. Unfortunately, his progress is hampered by a series of setbacks. His stuck-up blond girlfriend (Tegan Ross) cheats on him with an obnoxious rich-kid rival (Matt Bellefleur); his overworked mom falls asleep at the wheel and has a serious car accident resulting in expensive medical bills; a minor scrape with the law results in him losing his bike. And his absentee black father virtually wants nothing to do with him.

On the other hand, he finds solace in a new romance with a beautiful Latina (Sandra Echeverria), even if her overprotective father is bent on preventing him from getting anywhere near his daughter. As you might guess, things culminate in a climactic motocross race in which our hero triumphs, though it is so ineptly shot and edited that the excitement of the sport is barely conveyed. Although projecting a likable screen presence, Bleu lacks the charisma necessary to carry the film. Director William Dear, working with a hackneyed script by Joshua Leibner and Jeffrey Nicholson, doesn’t manage to make the proceedings as entertaining as his previous family targeted efforts “Harry and the Hendersons” and “Angels in the Outfield.”