Trash or Treasure: AIRBORNE

J.C. De Leon

by: J.C. De Leon
May 5th, 2011

“Trash or Treasure” is a new recurring feature at Gordon and the Whale in which I return to a film that holds a special place in my heart (for a multitude of possible reasons) - and see if it is still deserving of that place. Have I been holding on to a piece of trash, or are my beloved films still bonafide treasure?

This week’s edition of Trash or Treasure wasn’t all that hard to pick out. A couple of weeks ago, our friends over at Film Drunk posted a story written by Danger Guerrero breaking down the final action-packed scene of AIRBORNE, one of my favorite films of the ‘90s. Our lovely Managing Editor Kate Erbland took to Twitter and started a discussion of her love and, when I chimed in, it was at her suggestion that I chose it as this week’s Trash or Treasure.

This is one of those mysterious movies in my catalog of films seen whose origin is unknown to me. I don’t remember when or where I first saw it, I just remember sitting down to watch it one day saying to myself “I’ve seen this before!” For those who aren’t familiar with this gem, shame on you and let me fill you in. Mitchell Goosen (Shane McDermott) is a teenager from California who doesn’t know what he wants to be when he grows up, and doesn’t care. He just wants to have some nice waves, a couple of burritos, and one or two Otter Pops and he’s a happy camper. When his parents are given a grant in Australia at the beginning of the school year, he has to go live with his aunt and uncle in Cincinnati, where it’s heavy on the snow and light on the waves. In every sense of the word he’s a fish out of water, but he’s got his cousin Wiley (Seth Green) and, despite making a bad first impression with some local bullies on the hockey rink (some of whom include actors who went on to bigger acting careers like Jack Black and Jacob Vargas), Mitchell will try to make the best of the situation he’s in.

The interesting study with this film is the performance of Shane McDermott; despite the movie as a whole being generically written and his character of Mitchell Goosen being a little cliché, he did a really good job here. As a kid, this was a character I loved watching and may or may not (but secretly may) have wished I were more like. Sadly, if you like his performance in this, there isn’t much else of him to be seen. He’s been in one episode of Law and Order and was in a few episodes of All My Children, but unknown to anyone is why he lost his desire to be in show business. Reportedly, he is currently a real estate agent in Galveston, Texas.

I can’t nail down exactly why it is that I love this movie so much, and I’m sure it is mostly due to my having discovered it as a teenager when I didn’t know as much about movies, but this movie has a lot to love in it. A prank montage, some bullies that are both intimidating and kind of stupid (guess which one Jack Black is), skating montages, puppy love, and a climactic race at the end - what’s not to love?

Most of all, it includes lots and lots of wailing guitars! If someone made a drinking game for every time there was a wailing guitar, you’d be partying at Charlie Sheen levels, except you wouldn’t be winning. Its performances and the writing are very cliché, and leave a lot to be desired, especially now having revisited it for the first time in a very long time, but that doesn’t take away the nostalgic feeling I got for this film watching it for this article.  

If you’ve never seen this movie, you really should, even if only to hear about the epic dream featuring a shark named Pepe. Thanks to him, I’ll never forget what “La ola es mia” means. It’s a pretty obvious choice if you haven’t figured out the verdict by now.

Verdict: Treasure! With a big, giant ‘90s-style guitar wail!!!!

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