It sounds more like the title of a horse racing documentary, but at least Mark Neale's The Doctor, the Tornado, and the Kentucky Kid (2006) has got the racing part covered. This detailed documentary of the Red Bull Grand Prix at Laguna Seca, CA (held during the weekend of July 8-10, 2005) offers us a behind-the-scenes pass to the world of MotoGP racing, introducing us to some of the more popular names and the machines they care for. As far as history goes, this particular event would stand out for at least one reason: as the first official MotoGP race held in America since 1994.
Director Mark Neale is no stranger to the sport: he also helmed Faster (2003), a like-minded portrait of MotoGP racing that introduced casual fans to several athletes featured here. At the forefront are the title characters, including Valentino "The Doctor" Rossi (#46), Colin "The Texas Tornado" Edwards (#5), and Nicky "The Kentucky Kid" Hayden (#69); also featured prominently is John "Hopper" Hopkins (#21). Though the film's odd moniker seemingly limits its coverage to the first three competitors, Rossi is notably absent from the bulk of the off-track footage. The charismatic, successful Italian racer was recently recognized by Sports Illustrated as the 7th highest paid athlete in the world---earning roughly $30 million per year---so it's possible he was busy signing autographs.
As firmly as the interview footage and pre-race tension frames the documentary, the actual race undoubtedly takes center stage. It's obvious that the Red Bull GP will be an important event, so it's no surprise that director Neale treats it with the proper respect. The buildup creates a slow-burning but deliberate pace, punctuated nicely by narration from real-life MotoGP enthusiast Ewan McGregor (of Star Wars fame) and brief history lessons about the sport. It's also no surprise that such a dangerous sport could result in death or permanent injury; if that weren't enough, the Laguna Seca track is recognized as one of the most physically demanding. Long story short: risk is involved.
Though a perfect balance isn't always achieved, The Doctor, the Tornado, and the Kentucky Kid manages to remain entertaining throughout. The actual race proves to be fairly exciting, while the behind-the-scenes footage pays respect to the sport and its top competitors. The 50,000 fans at the live event seem to enjoy it too, including more famous MotoGP followers like Brad Pitt and Adrien Brody. Though anyone unfamiliar with the sport might not be able to appreciate it on all levels, The Doctor, the Tornado, and the Kentucky Kid is a fairly satisfying effort from start to finish.
Presented on DVD by New Video, this "Ultimate Collector's Edition" is almost as oddly titled as the film itself. The main feature is paired with a hit-or-miss technical presentation, while the extras are thin but fairly interesting. It may not be worth a blind buy (unless you're a die-hard fan of the sport), but there's enough here to warrant a closer look.
Presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and enhanced for widescreen displays, The Doctor, the Tornado, and the Kentucky Kid looks a bit rough. Perhaps a better description would be "uneven"; the color palette bleeds a bit and jagged edges are often present, but black levels are fairly solid. It's a disappointment, but these visual quibbles---undoubtedly due to the source material, not the DVD authoring---won't make the film unwatchable.
The audio presentation offers an obvious improvement, pairing the main feature with a solid Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix that fans should enjoy. Surround channels are put to good use, front channel separation is strong and the dynamic range is quite good. The dialogue and narration also sound crisp and clear; luckily, they don't fight for attention with the music and background noise. Optional English, Spanish and French subtitles are included during the main feature.
Disc 2 is a bit more satisfying, though there's only one extra here as well: an Interactive Version of the Laguna Seca race, complete with multiple viewing modes accessed via the "angle" button on your DVD remote. Perhaps the best of the bunch is a "multi-angle" mode that presents five different camera perspectives at once. Though some may find this extra a bit gimmicky---especially since more technically-minded material isn't included---it's a pretty cool idea that stands in good contrast with the main feature. An audio commentary or interview with the director couldn't have hurt, though.
It's a bit uneven, but those that enjoy racing should get some enjoyment out of The Doctor, the Tornado, and the Kentucky Kid. This documentary's focused pace---not to mention the race's interesting history---are the true highlights, making it enjoyable for veteran MotoGP fans and casual viewers alike. New Video's two-disc package is decent but flawed, coming up short in the visual department while excelling in audio; additionally, the extras are thin but offer modest support for the main feature. All things considered, The Doctor, the Tornado, and the Kentucky Kid is too good to ignore, yet the shaky DVD presentation and limited replay value don't make it a worthy blind buy. 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.