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Saturday, September 18, 1993 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Rollerblading Pastime Gets Teens `Airborne'

Movie review XX "Airborne," with Shane McDermott, Seth Green, and Brittney Powell. Directed by Rob Bowman, from a screenplay by Bill Apablasa. City Centre, Parkplace, Crossroads, Parkway Plaza, Aurora, Alderwood, Gateway Center 8. "PG" - Parental guidance suggested because of mild profanity.

As a showcase for the popular sport of Rollerblading, "Airborne" joins a long list of perfunctory teen-oriented movies which capitalize on the latest trendy pastime. The plots are interchangable, with razzle-dazzle mastery of the chosen sport being the top priority.

"On Any Sunday" was a good documentary about motorcycling; John Milius' "Big Wednesday" hung-10 on the surf scene; "Gleaming the Cube" stuck Christian Slater on a blazing skateboard. . .and the list goes on, all the way up to the recent "Surf Ninjas." Now, "Airborne."

As these things go, this is a painless and breezily amusing variation on the theme, focusing on Mitch (instant teen heartthrob Shane McDermott), a California surfer dude who spends every spare moment "shreddin' waves and scopin' babes" on the beach, until his zoologist parents are awarded a grant to study the Australian wombat.

Thinking he's going to spend the winter riding the waves Down Under, Mitch instead gets stuck stateside and has to spend the blizzard season in Cincinnati with his insufferably dingy aunt and uncle and his nerdy cousin, Wiley (Seth Green). As the new kid in town, he's the scapegoat du jour, targeted for abuse by the thugs of the high-school hockey team, whose leader is the jock-macho brother of Nikki (Brittney Powell), a wholesome cheerleader type who thinks Mitch is way cool.

What follows is a ludicrously trumped-up progression of nonsensical manipulation, including unmotivated fights, instamatic puppy love, and enough surf-Zen philosophy to win McDermott a place in an anthology of Southern California poetry. It's all perfectly tuned for the Clearasil crowd, ready to be diced into promotional videos propelled by Stewart Copeland's driving-rock soundtrack.

Oddly enough, however, "Airborne" is tasty cotton candy for the screen. McDermott seems primed to steal some thunder from the "90210" cast, and Green - who was hilarious as Woody Allen's young alter ego in "Radio Days" - is perfectly gawky, displaying a natural talent for oddball comedy and finely timed pratfalls. His nervous dress-up for a blind date is the film's comic highlight.

Of course, it's all just preamble for the big Rollerblade race (or "in-line skating," as it's officially called), in which all of Cincinnati is turned into a challenging downhill course. That's when "Airborne" really lets loose, and second-unit director Steve Boyum (backing director Rob Bowman) deserves rousing applause for delivering the "French Connection" of Rollerblade chases - a hyperkinetic, superbly edited 10-minute sequence in which the official Team Rollerblade struts its stuff, tackling some great stunts and giving the film's specialized audience exactly what they want.

Copyright (c) 1993 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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