Scooter is one heck of a sloppy “found footage” flick. Not only is this a weak thriller, but the film constantly steps on its own continuity by rewriting its rules on the fly. The biggest crime: it’s completely unaware of its potential.
The movie tracks a “lost” and unedited YouTube video by the AmiGoes, a trio of childhood buddies who have found online fame by pursuing silly challenges. Their latest mission sets them up for an unconventional road trip to New Orleans just in time for Mardi Gras – Will (Joshua Zimmerman), Juan (Stephan Pineda), and Paul (Dondre Tuck) must make their trek on a limited budget, riding dinky motorized scooters. All is going well (as best as a gruelling, long road trip can be) until they witness a murder at a pitstop and are spotted by the culprit (Mitch Lemos); compromising their latest project and turning it into a fight for survival.
Scooter plays the premise as straight as possible, which is disappointing since the film is clearly an opportunity to satirize online stars who believe their own clout is enough to protect them from severe danger. The three YouTubers are nice enough and their videos are cute. But because they’re harmless, this is detrimental for audiences choosing how they feel about these characters. To capitalize on the satire, writer/director Matthew Wohl should’ve pushed the envelope a bit more and made these leads ruthless for footage. This change would’ve been truthful to the desperate nature of online popularity, and it would’ve given these helpless actors a decent arc to explore when survival takes more of a priority than views or “likes”. I’ll throw Wohl a bone. He does toy with this development through Will, the smug “pretty boy” of the bunch who doesn’t take anything seriously. But, it’s only a glimpse during the final act when Will truly believes he’s a bulletproof hero.
In terms of barebones “found footage” movies, Scooter sputters on the sub-genre’s trappings and falls in similar traps we’ve seen before. Oodles of devices are used, but are never shown being transported (I don’t believe all of this gear could fit inside small backpacks). On top of that, battery life is never addressed; making long takes hard to accept (it’s suggested that two cameras were on all night, recording Paul and Juan sleeping. Mmm-hm). A drone is used to capture wide shots, but no one controls it. We learn later that the drone is set on “follow mode”, but it’s a last-minute detail that isn’t planted authentically.
Scooter never feels prepared but, then again, “found footage” movies aren’t supposed to feel calculated. Their aesthetics are supposed to feel “in the moment”. However, Matthew Wohl also needs to be able to follow through on this trick, and the filmmaker simply can’t keep up.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie