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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A&E >  Entertainment

‘Down and Derby’ only occasionally entertaining

Chris Hewitt Knight Ridder

“Down and Derby” is the longest “Malcolm in the Middle” episode ever. Also the blandest.

It’s a nice, occasionally funny movie that falls into a weird place: It’s about a subject that will interest children (Cub Scouting’s annual wood-car race, the Pinewood Derby), but it focuses on adults (the victory-obsessed parents of said Cub Scouts). And it’s too predictable and TV-movie generic to appeal to anyone older than, say, 5.

The idea is a fine one: exaggerate just a bit the extent to which dads, remembering their Pinewood Derby failures, fixate on their sons’ derbies. The dads here (led by “Ally McBeal’s” Greg Germann) approach the race with the same amount of preparation and cool I imagine Wyatt Earp exhibiting as he headed into the O.K. Corral, which is funny.

But the film doesn’t distinguish between the dads, who are all basically the same dad – the amiably wacko, outsmarted-by-his-kids “Malcolm in the Middle” dad – and it doesn’t distinguish between their sons, either.

“Down and Derby” has a promising setting. I would love to see a “Spellbound”-style documentary about the Pinewood Derby, which the movie’s final scenes reveal as an exciting event.

I bet the real people who participate in it – including the Pinewood Derby’s founder, who makes a cameo appearance in “Down and Derby” – are funnier and more compelling than the folks we see in this one-joke affair.

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