4,065 miles. 16 states. 100 days. 418 battery charges. 0 flat tires.
These are just a few of the statistics compiled during a unique one-way trip across the United States by a few young ex-cubicle slaves looking to do something a little different. The vehicle of choice was a Segway---a battery-powered scooter, for lack of a better term---which doesn't seem like the ideal candidate for such a journey. With a max speed of roughly 12 mph (though 10 is a rough average, hence the title), no roof and no air conditioning, Segways are primarily meant for quick city trips. The justification for such a journey, like mountain climbing, parachuting and drag racing, is very simple: why not?
The ex-cubicle slaves in question are Hunter Weeks (director) and Josh Caldwell (full-time rider); together with a handful of friends and relatives, they worked hard to organize the journey, save some cash and capture the whole thing on film. Nearly 200 hours of footage resulted in 10 MPH: Seattle to Boston (2007), their cross-country documentary through small towns, major metropolitan areas and a few deserted highways. It proved to be an ambitious yet difficult undertaking for the Internet-savvy yuppies---and though it doesn't always hit the right notes, it certainly tries hard enough.
First things first: the heart of 10 MPH lies in the small towns and interesting characters we meet along the way. From a group of fund-raising bikers to a authoritative Barney Fife wannabe, the film's balance of humor and humanity---eerily similar to David Lynch's The Straight Story during some sequences, with a contemporary twist---keeps things rolling along nicely. The film's "warts and all" approach is also refreshing enough: this obviously isn't an easy task (even with the crew riding close by in an actual vehicle), so we get a few glimpses of exhaustion and frustration. This isn't necessarily a highlight, but it's good to know the film doesn't shy away from it.
With that said, it's hard to watch 10 MPH and not be frustrated at certain elements. Though such a journey would be nearly impossible without the backup vehicle and road crew, it slightly deflates the scope of everything...in a sense, like breaking a new batting record by using steroids. On top of that, the film's underlying theme of "breaking free from corporate life" is sidelined when we see the gang munching on Chipotle burritos and wearing Fender clothes after gaining their sponsorship. Another distraction arrives when a business partner backs out midway through the journey, leaving the crew with even less money to work with. Rather than keep this new rivalry a private matter, Weeks and company immaturely air their dirty laundry on camera.
Odd elements like these certainly don't kill the production, but they manage to hollow everything out just a bit. Still, while 10 MPH doesn't always practice what it preaches, those looking for a off-center portrait of modern American life should find it enjoyable. The film maintains a striking sense of charm and enthusiasm during most of its 92-minute running time---and if there's one other compliment I can offer, it's pretty darn entertaining most of the way. The DVD offers a decent technical presentation and a few nice extras; while most won't consider it blind buy material, there's enough here to make 10 MPH worth looking into.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio and enhanced for 16x9 displays, 10 MPH looks surprisingly good from start to finish. The natural color palette stands out in certain scenes, while black levels are strong in all but the darkest of scenes. Mild digital combing and edge enhancement can be seen along the way, but this is still a satisfying visual presentation.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 mix is straightforward, but also gets the job done in most respects. Dialogue is generally easy to understand, though some of the background music tends to overpower a few conversations. Unfortunately, no subtitles or Closed Caption support have been included during the main feature or extras.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the static menu designs are basic and easy to navigate. The 92-minute main feature has been divided into 21 chapters, while no obvious layer change was detected during playback. This one-disc release is housed in a standard black keepcase and includes no inserts of any kind.
Leading things off is a feature-length Audio Commentary with Hunter Weeks and Josh Caldwell, which actually turns out to be fairly low-key and insular. A few more participants could've really livened things up, especially through the frequent lapses into silence; even so, several interesting tidbits keep things fairly interesting. Along the way, you'll hear a bit of back story to the production, plenty of retrospective comments...and the word "classic" about 200 times.
Next up is a collection of Deleted Scenes (12 clips, 20:30 total); some are genuinely interesting slices of life, others are much more self-indulgent. Highlights include a haircut in the middle of nowhere, the life story of a small-town market owner, a resolution to "the tractor incident" and more. Also here is a brief collage of Bloopers (3:15), which includes plenty of line-flubbing and Segway spills. We also get the curious "J. Fred Reel" (2:04), a short montage of footage featuring the film's charismatic associate producer.
Winding things down is a TV Interview (7:22) filmed one day after the crew's arrival in Boston. It's mostly a surface level interview, serving as more of a testament to the media coverage of the event than anything else. It's surprising that a greater collection of clips and articles wasn't assembled, but much can be found online with minimal effort. Closing things out is a page of Expedition Facts, chronicling such things as total number of batteries charged, states crossed and burritos eaten (partially seen at top).
All bonus features have been thoughtfully presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 formats, though the TV interview is oddly cropped to fill a 16x9 frame. Like the main feature, no subtitles or Closed Caption support have been included here.
It doesn't always hit the right notes, but 10 MPH: Seattle to Boston offers a handful of interesting sights and experiences along the way. Like most road movies, it proves to be more about the journey than the destination; unfortunately, the film's ambiguous attitude falls a bit flat in certain regards. The DVD presentation is certainly capable enough, offering a decent technical presentation and an assortment of appropriate extras. There's not enough here to recommend 10 MPH as solid blind buy material, but those who enjoy wanderlust will want to give it a weekend spin. Rent It.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in a local gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, second-guessing himself and writing things in third person.