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3: The Dale Earnhardt Story
IMDB Rating: 6.9/10 from 1,357 votes
Release: 11 December 2004 (USA) /

3: The Dale Earnhardt Story

Genre: Biography, Drama, Sport
Director: Russell Mulcahy,
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: Biographical story of Dale Earnhardt, Sr. starts with his young life and growing up with his father, Ralph, who raced for a living, but initially wanted more for his son. When Dale quits high school to start driving full time, his father aids him and shows a reluctant pride when he is initially successful. Armed with many of his father's philosophies, Dale pushed himself to be the best. His aggressive track mannerisms earned himself fans and detractors. Fellow racer Neil Bonnett was one of those long time friends and whose death deeply affected Dale. Darrell Waltrip clearly was a detractor and the two men's rivalry is clearly depicted. Off the track, Dale's determination to make it impacts two marriages. Third wife Theresa was closer to racing and met Dale when he had started his rise into the Winston Cup circuit. The story also looks at his relationship with his children, particularly son Kerry from his first marriage and whom he did not see again after age 5 until Kerry in his late ... Written by John Sacksteder <[email protected]>

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Critic Reviews

"3: The Dale Earnhardt Story" isn't going to win a lot of non-Nascar fans over to the sport, but as a biography, it is well-made, offers some believable insights on what made Earnhardt the often enigmatic person he was, and, in Barry Pepper, provides an eerily close approximation to the 'look' and 'feel' of the racing legend. Pepper will certainly receive an Emmy nomination for the role, and delivers such a powerful portrayal that you nearly forget how good the rest of the cast is.

While Elizabeth Mitchell is more glamorous than the real Teresa Earnhardt, she is quite solid and believable in the role; to truly appreciate how important Teresa's intelligence and business acumen were to Dale, it would have required a much longer movie, and might have seriously tilted the story away from Dale's other relationships, and the balance that Pepper and director Russell Mulcahy achieved.

Dale's early years come off best in the film, with a wonderful performance by J.K. Simmons as the inspirational Ralph Earnhardt. The grittiness and 'backwoods blue-collar' feel of Earnhardt's upbringing is well-conveyed, and reminiscent of "Coal Miner's Daughter" and "The River". The film loses a bit of steam when Dale begins racing, and as he achieves success, a lot of memorable moments had to be edited out, or telescoped down, which has disappointed some Earnhardt fans. Considering the time and budget constraints, however, I found the story to be remarkably accurate.

The young actors who portrayed Dale's children as adults should be singled out for recognition; race car driver/first-time actor Chad Mcumbee, while low-key, is pretty impressive as Dale Jr., conveying both a pride in his father, and frustration in being 'held back' so he could complete his education before being permitted to race; Corri English, while too cute, has an infectious smile and manner, and exhibits the Earnhardt joy of fast cars; best of all is newcomer Frank Glidden as oldest son Kerry, who, in a few brief scenes, offers a balanced, sensitive interpretation of the son Dale abandoned, finally winning his father's attention and respect, even as he sees Dale Jr. outshining him on the track. I look forward to seeing more of Glidden's work in future!

While there will certainly be a more detailed and polished feature film about Earnhardt in the future, this ESPN production is not without it's own merits, and provides an entertaining, dramatic overview of the racing legend's life.

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