Film Review: Nitro Circus: The Movie

The 3D action-sports documentary 'Nitro Circus: The Movie' has a few bonus dimensions, but that doesn't make it deep.

One of the subjects in Nitro Circus: The Movie has a theory that the difference between the stunts the Circus puts itself through and the buffoonery those guys from “Jackass” come up with all boils down to their goals. While success is impossible on a show like “Jackass,” failure could mean death for those in Nitro Circus, with their fast cars and motorcycle jumps and whatnot.

They're humble enough to have a sense of humor about what they do, but as much silliness as there is in this documentary, it takes itself too seriously to have the same joy that “Jackass” has. You probably wouldn't think that'd be a problem in a movie that shows somebody riding a tricycle into a flaming loop-de-loop, but there you go.

Actually, that's one of their less daring stunts. There's also one that requires two guys—each sporting Elvis Presley's famous jumpsuit—to send a parachute jumper off a building, and another that combines the rush of waterskiing with the skill of playing Angry Birds. Along with these, the movie gets athletes like Rob Dyrdek and Ryan Sheckler to light candles for Nitro Circus in interviews, emphasizing that they understand how risky this is. (Even “Jackass” icon Johnny Knoxville drops in.) They harp on the consequences of everything going wrong so much, in fact, that it appears the movie is contradicting itself: If success means so much here, how come the majority of the footage features performers attempting a stunt, coming up short, dusting themselves off and having a laugh before trying again?

Even darker moments don't hold water. When one of the guys ends up in a hospital, the film documents this rare and alarming time for performers who've known one another since childhood. Nevertheless, it's hard to have sympathy for him if the movie doesn't let us know what his injuries are. Does it care?

It's not easy to think of anyone who wouldn't. If the movie gets anything right, it's the connection it establishes with the performers, and the way it manages to find out what makes this stuff important to them.

Audiences may wind up rooting for this group so much they'll wish the movie approached their pursuits with the spirit they deserve. A better film might have had a more satisfying finale—despite a bunch of fanfare about Nitro Circus’ performance at the MGM Grand, the amount of footage showing it clocks in at about four minutes.