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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » I Am Dale Earnhardt
I Am Dale Earnhardt
Comedy Central // Unrated // September 1, 2015
List Price: $14.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ryan Keefer | posted September 29, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

In the decade and a half since driver Dale Earnhardt Sr. died on the track at the Daytona 500, there is the good chance you can drive through most places that cite NASCAR as a fan favorite sport and see a faded yet still visible number 3, Earnhardt's car number for decades before his death. Much was said about Dale Sr. during and after his life, and I Am Dale Earnhardt is the latest production to try and explore this racing icon.

The film is part of a series of "I Am" documentaries produced by the Spike TV television network, with their film on Chris Farley being a recent notable installment. This Earnhardt version of the film, running about an hour in length, features interviews with Earnhardt's children, including current NASCAR driver Dale Jr., along with current and former drivers who raced with and against Dale Sr., along with some friends and fans. Of minor surprise to this viewer was seeing Rikki Rachtman of "Headbanger's Ball" lore in the film, but as he goes onto explain, he guested as a member of Dale Jr.'s crew at Daytona one year. Another initial odd inclusion of interview subjects is Cassadee Pope, a singer who won the reality show contest The Voice one year. She explains her grandparents were acquaintances of Dale Sr. and discusses their impact on her.

Past those minor surprises, over the course of the hour we see Dale Sr.'s origins, and his relationship with his father Ralph, himself an original NASCAR driver who started on dirt tracks, and died suddenly of a heart attack at age 45. How that relationship is speculated on by others of course, but some people in the film discuss how it may have impacted Dale Sr.'s relationship with his children, and the children discuss it to a degree also, along with Jr.'s bond with Sr. as the former began racing on the circuits.

We also see a lot of the stuff on the track that earned Dale Sr. the "Intimidator" nickname, whether it was spinning drivers out on the track during a race or getting involved in altercations with them just after getting off the track, Earnhardt could flip a switch from jovial country boy to cold hearted, win at most costs driver that gave people a begrudging respect for him. The crowd turned from blood carnage at this expense (a death threat that the FBI handled in 1987 being a prime example), to adoration, buying up any and everything with the Earnhardt 3 on it.

Directed by Jeff Cvitkovic, veteran of other NASCAR and sports productions, it is clear he has a grasp on the subject and the material, yet there is very little new asphalt laid down in I Am Dale Earnhardt, aside from spending more time than similar documentaries on his childhood and time before his first year in NASCAR (then called the Winston Cup). He puts the time in visually, but substantively, if you are the least bit familiar with the Earnhardt family story, you really aren't gaining much from watching this.

While Spike TV's I Am series has covered Earnhardt, Farley, as well as Bruce Lee, Steve McQueen and Evel Knievel, one gets the sense that in terms of content within these features, they are little more than refreshers on a person, with little in the way of revelatory (or even old stories told differently) value. Don't get me wrong, it's nice that I Am Dale Earnhardt exists, but I'm still left wondering as to the point of it when other features have told the tales such as they are.

The Disc:
Video:

The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer gracing I Am Dale Earnhardt is pretty good, despite the reformatting of older interviews and racing footage for the feature. That footage looks decent, and the modern interviews more so, shot in high definition (and at least in some of the shots to show how small Dale Sr.'s house was, maybe a camera drone or two), the image looks natural, has lots of detail and colors look as accurate as they are going to given the source material on video and the interviewees. Solid viewing.

Audio:

The film gets a two-channel Dolby stereo presentation? OK then. The sound is as clear as can be in the front of the soundstage, and is consistent without having chirps, mosquito noise or moments of dropping out. Nothing to really moan about when you listen to the soundtrack, other than what happened to the other 3.1 channels.

Extras:

Additional interview footage and highlights from Earnhardt's career are shown, including a funny anecdote about him shaving off his moustache once. There are eight segments, and they total approximately 27:54 in time.

Final Thoughts:

It may be nice that I Am Dale Earnhardt helps bring newer fans of NASCAR or those who know of Earnhardt peripherally some information on the man whose life was taken from the fans far too soon. But if you take away the lore and adoration, and look at this film in a vacuum, it just seems average and redundant to me. Technically, the disc is fine, and the extras are a nice addition, but at the end of it all, there are productions that have told Earnhardt's story in a better way than this, and used the same material to boot.

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