Shifting Gears Review
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Sometimes, we get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life that we start taking things for granted. That’s why a little change can be good. But in the family comedy Shifting Gears, one family makes a series of big changes, and they’re forced to face new challenges as a family.

Shifting Gears follows a family as they work to start a new life together. When Tom Williamson (R. Keith Harris) inherits a rundown service station from his estranged father, he decides to quit his stressful corporate job and start a family business. But just as things are starting to look up for the Williamson family, they discover that they’re in danger of losing the station to Tom’s dad’s lifelong rival, Conrad Baines (John Ratzenberger). And the only way to save the station is by winning the money in a dirt track race.

Shifting Gears is a light-hearted, family-friendly film about racing and family and focusing on what really matters. The members of the Williamson family definitely have their work cut out for them when they arrive in town. Not only do they have to start a business, but they also have to battle a family rival—all while trying to reconnect as a family. And, as you might expect, that causes plenty of drama and laughs.

Still, everything here feels just a little overplayed. The comedy is silly and slapstick, and it sometimes goes too far over-the-top. And instead of genuinely humorous, it feels forced and awkward—like the cast is trying too hard to be funny.

The story, too, is often too obvious. There are a number of conflicts here—not just the battle to save the station from becoming just another chain store. As Tom tries to build his own business, he has to face his difficult relationship with his father while clashing with his own son, Jeremy (Adam Hicks), over Jeremy’s plans for his future. The two have communication and trust issues—and, of course, there are some lessons to be learned in the end. But those lessons sometimes come out in awkward monologues that feel a little too preachy and melodramatic for what’s supposed to be a fun family adventure.

Meanwhile, there are some interesting characters here—like Charlie and Derwyn (Cole Bernstein and Robert Crayton), the two mechanics that come to help out at the shop. But while both are introduced well, their strong personalities simply fade into the background. And that seems to be the film’s main problem, too: it has plenty of promise, but it turns out to be just a little too bland.

If your family loves fixing up cars and racing around a track, you’ll appreciate the setting and the folksy, small-town charm of Shifting Gears. But while it’s good for some family-friendly laughter and drama, it isn’t an especially strong or memorable film.

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