Someday, the world will look back at 2023 as the Year of the Product Movie.
“Air” was about shoes. “Super Mario Brothers” is another video game that sprang to the big screen. “Blackberry” was about a phone. Then there was “Barbie.”
Now there’s “Gran Turismo: Based on a True Story,” which takes a different track (see what I did there?) than other films based on products: It tells the true story of a gamer and his quest to become a racer in real life.
This will have millions of kids who’d rather game than anything else feeling affirmed.
The tale begins in Cardiff, Wales, where Jann Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe, “Midsommar”) lives to play “Gran Turismo.” (In case you’re unfamiliar with the game, it simulates racing and features online competition.)
His father (Djimon Hounsou) thinks he’s wasting his time. He wants more for his son than a job as a future as a laborer. Jann’s mother (Geri Halliwell Horner from the Spice Girls) wishes the two wouldn’t clash so much.
After Jann enters a contest organized by Nissan executive Danny Moore (Orlando Bloom,) his life begins to move faster than any car, real or simulated: The winners of the online contest will train to be actual racers.
Also, David Harbour (“Stranger Things”) is enjoyable as Jann’s coach.
Underneath the barrage of product placement is a kind of “Rocky” movie for this generation. There’s the tension between father and son, a romance that’s sweet and believable, and the excitement of pursuing one’s dream. It’s a well-crafted underdog sports movie.
The scenes in which Jann drives a computer-generated car that disassembles are awe-inspiring, and the racing scenes are really engaging.
Madekwe is inspiring as the awkward kid who doesn’t know what he’s in for but holds fast to his dream.
Gamers, racing fans and audiences who like action should race out to this. It’s a winner.
Rated: PG-13 for foul language and sexual situations.
Running time: Two hours and 15 minutes.
Watch the trailer here.