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Megan Moore Burns,
Doubting Thomas is the story of a twelve year old boy known for telling tall tales who overhears a plot to kidnap the President's daughter. When he goes public with his story, no one believes him, and he is forced to save her on his own.
Down and Derby is a family comedy about a small town Pinewood Derby competition that transforms an average group of dads into an awkward bunch of competitors. On the outside, Phil Davis is the typical dad and friendly neighbor. On the inside, he is unresolved and at a breaking point with his childhood rival, Ace Montana. Desperate for the elusive first place, Phil sees his son's Pinewood Derby race as a breakthrough opportunity to beat Ace, who also has a Cub Scout son. Surrounded by more overzealous dads in the same cul-de-sac, they all disregard the event's ideals and completely take over the design, planning and construction of the cars. In the crazed world of derby fever, the kids are lucky if they get to pick the paint color or attach a decal. Hilarity builds as the dads teeter on the edge of insanity and resort to backstabbing, cover-ups and sabotage. Wives, families and jobs are ignored with extreme consequences. The farce reaches comical and outrageous levels when in the end, ...Written by
The long wait to build your own pinewood derby car
"Down and Derby" is a genuine comedy, but with obvious limited appeal. The comedy is about the extent to which some dads go to "help" their sons win the pinewood derby races in Cub Scouts. This film centers around four men. Three were childhood pals and the fourth was their nemesis - a new kid who moved into the neighborhood in those years. But now they all are grown and live in a very nice suburb, probably in California. And, all are neighbors.
A favorite dialog exchange is between Phil and Kim Davis. He rolls out a set of actual blueprints for a derby car. Kim asks, "When did you have time to make these?" Phil, "Oh, I had them drawn up, uh, the minute I found out we were having a boy. Yeah I've been saving 'em for Brady's first derby."
I won't give away the conclusion of the film. There's a nice lesson in it, even a moral or two. But the film is about the obsessive drive that overtakes each of the three men as he seeks to build the perfect and winning car for his son. This is greatly exaggerated (I think) to the extent that each dad builds his own derby racetrack for testing his car or cars. And, in this film, not a single boy has anything to do with any of the cars their dads are building. Not even for the "fun" stuff - whatever that was supposed to be, once the major design work is complete.
I don't think this film had a wide release in theaters. But more people would likely watch it if they knew about it. That would include most dads who ever "helped" a son with a pinewood derby car. And the moms - some of whom may have stood in for dads, but others who put up with the strange behavior of the dads during the derby days. Of course, most of the boys would be covered in the group of dads - having grown up, had a son of their own, and finally been able to build their own car (as a dad). In this movie, one of the boys says he can't wait to grow up to be a dad so he can build his pinewood derby car.
At first, one might think that many dads with derby experience wouldn't care about this film. Those would be the guys who didn't get carried away. They didn't take over their son's father-son derby project, and make it their own one-man project. There are no statistics, so we don't know how many such dads there may be. One suspects that most dads probably did make it a joint project. In this film, while many of the cars have slick designs, not that many were super fast. So, those dads might enjoy this film for its portrayal of what they saw or knew from among the packs in which their boys competed. There always seem to be a few dads who are driven (pun coincidental) to perfection and winning.
The film shows a video, a pinewood derby bible, a complete workshop and a professional lab that dads use to work on their cars - their perfect speed machines. Yet, the pinewood derby winners more often than not, have been flukes. And, on that I can speak from experience. I helped three sons make their pinewood derby cars, for several derbies. These were in different cities. Not being an engineer or designer, I succeeded in convincing my sons that we should try for the best design prize. So, we built cars for their looks, sleek appeal and paint jobs. Of course we tried all the other tips and tricks to make them as fast as possible. They were all very close to the maximum weight of five ounces. All of them won a prize for best design - a couple of them first places and others 2nd through 4th. But, one also was the derby race winner. And I can honestly say (admit) that it was a fluke.
The most memorable of those was the first one. It was my oldest son's and my first pinewood derby. I had been in Cub Scouts just one year as a boy, and that was before the pinewood derby came on the scene. My son and I both worked on the car. I did the sawing for the main shape, and he did most of the sanding - by hand. We used a lead screw plug, halved, as two jet engines, which I glued and nailed on the top. We both painted the car - a deep metallic maroon with gold trim. And, we fitted and tapped the wheels on together. We didn't have our own tracks to test the cars on.
The pack we were in had dads with all kinds of backgrounds, including engineers. The favorite to win that year was a boy and dad who had won the previous year. The dad was an aeronautical engineer for a space agency. We were allowed to test the cars on the track the day before the race. My son's car was quite fast. On the day of the derby, my son's car won third place for design. And then, he made it to the race finals. Our "fluke" car won first place, beating out the favored car which finished second.
For those who watch this film, I will say that the reaction at the end of our first pinewood derby was quite different. The young Cub who finished second threw one of the worst temper tantrums I've ever seen. From that time on, I tempered my sons to do the derby for the fun of it and the challenge of making a nice looking racecar together.
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