At the movies –

There are few films that include significant scenes of cross-country skiing, let alone an entire feature film whose theme is cross-country skiing. But when such a film comes along, you can count on FasterSkier to put on our critic’s hat and review it.

Off track won’t make you forget Citizen Kane, but it’s a fun 95 minutes for ski enthusiasts. For non-skiers, don’t bother. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The movie that caught our attention is Off track. Currently on Netflix, Off track (Outside Spar is the original Swedish title) is a Netflix production focusing on the intersecting lives of people training for the Vasaloppet.

Filmed on location in Dalarna and Stockholm, SwedenOff track it tries hard: at the end of the day, the film provides enough satisfying content of Vasa scenes, training action, and other ski-related activities to make it an enjoyable 95-minute outing for the ski enthusiast. For non-ski fans, this movie may be way off the mark.

The start of last year’s Vasaloppet. It’s hard to convey the spectacle of an opening, even in the middle of a feature film. (Photo: NordicFocus)

Anyone who has raced a lot will know and understand all the characters in this movie. There is an obsessive-compulsive age group that focuses too much on skiing and not enough on family. Then there are the older skiers determined to keep their consecutive years of participation alive when they probably shouldn’t. There is also the complete rookie who is in over their head. Also appearing is the hot pro skier who will do anything to win. In addition to the characters specific to the racing scene, there is also the main character, who is an alcoholic divorced mother whose life is a mess.

Off track trying to be contemporary Rocky on skis: may not reach this mark. The storyline is thin, with the depth of a very thinly applied layer of clyster, and many of the same attributes: kind of messy and underwhelming. The ski-related scenes are forced to carry the entire production, and there’s a naïveté to the film that undermines its better moments.

Off track tries to evoke a nostalgic feel for the Vasaloppet, but doesn’t quite succeed. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The ski scenes are really the only parts of the movie that are satisfying. How often do we see a movie that shows people training on skiergs, roller skis and hill jumping all in the same sequence? I think never! The ski scenes are of variable quality with good, recreated race sequences and lots of fun pre- and post-race bits. There’s also some footage of racers showing off technique that would obviously never get someone 90km. It will also put you off blueberry soup forever.

The biggest mistake at Off track is that the message boils down to “all things can be solved by training and skiing the Vasaloppet”. Drinking too much and having trouble parenting? Vasa will fix it. Overwhelmed and losing track of the important things in life? Well, Vasa has a cure for that too. In a bit of a spoiler, it can even fix infertility. There are some redeeming non-ski scenes, like spending the night before the race on the gym floor. But none of the purely Nesque scenes can stand alone and overcome a very weak script. Also, there are some very strange Swedish scenes that North American audiences might look askance at.

The start of the 2022 Vasaloppet (Photo: NordicFocus)

The acting is okay, somewhere between a made-for-TV movie and a Hollywood “B” movie. I highly recommend watching with subtitles instead of the English dub, which is hopelessly distracting.

If your cinematic film memory of cross-country skiing scenes includes the biathlon chase sequence from the most pathetic James Bond film, For your eyes only then Off track it will turn out that there are several steps of improvement.

The subtitles are worth watching. You’ll see roller ski stunt credits – something you’ll probably never see again. Product placement is actually nice with Madshus, Fisher, Swix and Craft popping up.

Off track it won’t make anyone’s top 100 movies of all time. But for people who take the time to read the race results on FasterSkier, it’s likely to be a nice way to spend an evening. Watch it with the right attitude, with a few ski buddies, and you’ll have a good laugh, a groan, and an overall good time. It might even motivate you enough to train for the Vasaloppet and get your life in order. For non-skiers it will disappoint.

For FasterSkier readers, I’m giving three out of five tubes of klister.

For non-skiers one tube.

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