Biker Boyz

There are many reasons not to take “Biker Boyz” seriously as a film, not the least of which is its title, what with its cutesy alliteration and the inappropriate “z.”

Also, we cannot discount the fact that this film contains both Lisa Bonet and Kid Rock, neither of whom, I think we can all agree, ought to be taken seriously as anything other than a former Cosby kid and a dirtbag Pamela Anderson-screwer, respectively.

We must also bear in mind that “Biker Boyz” has characters named Smoke, Wood, Flip, Kid, Chu Chu, Soul Train and Queenie. How different is this from “Our Gang,” which had Spanky, Alfalfa, Buckwheat and Porky? If we were not expected to take the Little Rascals seriously, why should we take “Biker Boyz” seriously?

The film can also be disregarded because it is about motorcycles. (Its secondary theme: People ride motorcycles.) This is a bold, sweeping statement, I realize, but I firmly believe that movies, if they are to have any impact on the human condition, ought to be about sentient beings, and not about machinery. Especially not loud, hateful machinery.

But the best reason not to take “Biker Boyz” seriously is that it is dull, unfocused, meandering stuff. It believes it has the makings of insightful drama, and then it ends by having its hero tell us that he has learned to “represent straight up.” I don’t even know what that means. Much of the rest of the dialogue is equally trite and/or nonsensical.

Our hero happens to be nicknamed Kid (Derek Luke), and he is the son of a man named Will (Eriq La Salle), who busts his butt working as a mechanic for a guy called Smoke (Laurence Fishburne). Smoke, clad in black leather — if Fishburne is wearing this, what is the guy from the Village People wearing? — is the undisputed “King of California,” at least in terms of late-night motorcycle street-racing. In other areas, such as quilting and television repair, I assume he concedes his crown to more qualified practitioners.

At any rate, Will gets himself killed in the first scene when a race goes awry and a chopper goes fly, that’s amore. Flash ahead six months, to where Kid is angry and cocky, secretly practicing to take Smoke’s throne in order to, I don’t know, prove himself or something. His worried mother (Vanessa Bell Calloway) frets and stews and lectures, like mothers are supposed to do in movies like these. Smoke, a good friend of the family who has offered Will’s widow any help she needs, tries to keep Kid from getting reckless and killing himself.

The film, directed with a ham fist by Reggie Rock Bythewood — who wrote a few episodes of “A Different World,” which explains the presence of Lisa Bonet — flits from one idea to the next with apparent randomness. There are family crises, some kitchen-sink drama, and a lot of scenes where testosterone-laden men glare and speak melodramatic challenges to one another in icy cool voices. When one of these men is Kid Rock, you know the movie has given up on being credible.

The one unifying theme in it all? Motorcycle racing. The motorcycle clubs of California probably have some inherent drama to them, what with the danger and the camaraderie and all, but this film fails to find it. Instead, it uses the same conflicts and character arcs as too many movies before it, never giving us a reason to care about anyone.

There is also the matter of padding, which the film indulges in capriciously. Between the last scene, which inevitably must have a race between Kid and Smoke, and what should have been the next-to-last scene, there are three additional scenes. They all could have been cut from the film without losing any story or character development; they are padding. It is not often I criticize a film editor by name, but Terilyn A. Shropshire, you suck.

Are there good moments in this film? Sure. Derek Luke, so great in “Antwone Fisher,” has a few instances of clarity. Some of his scenes with Vanessa Bell Calloway as Kid’s mother almost click. But in general, the acting is as soggy as the script. “Biker Boyz,” in a word, stinkz.

D (1 hr., 50 min.; PG-13, a lot of mild profanity plus one F-bomb, some mild violence, a little sexuality.)