New York Magazine




by David Edelstein

On the other side of the cultural spectrum is Marshall Curry’s ridiculously engaging documentary Racing Dreams, which follows three kids, 13 and under, who’d like to grow up to be NASCAR idols. I freely admit a prejudice: The sight of 11-year-olds in cars (even when they’re small and called “karts”) going 80 miles an hour gives me the heebie-jeebies. And never mind that peak oil is coming and we should wean the young off driving and blah blah blah. But these kids really, really love racing, and Curry’s camera captures their sudden sense of autonomy behind the wheel when they begin to feel at one with their vehicles.

The movie is a mix of rough and slick, edited (tastefully) for melodrama and pathos, but it’s never condescending. Its three subjects grow and change before your eyes. Eleven-year-old Annabeth Barnes, a rare girl in contention, is all long limbs and goofy effusions—until she begins to wonder if the racing obsession isn’t her dad’s and she’s missing out on life. Joshua Hobson is a sweet little wonk with tunnel vision who studies nascar stars giving interviews while his father tries to raise $5,000 for every race. Brandon Warren is the most heartrending: the hothead daredevil with the mostly absent screwup dad, the kid whose life could go either way. The five races begin in black-and-white with the cars of the protagonists in color. The journey is thrilling—even if, on some level, you know that these kids are going in circles.