10 MPH is a nearly irresistible concept: a do-it-yourself documentary about a couple of guys who decide to chuck their corporate lifestyle and go on a cross-country trip. Being a highly paid urban scenester was okay, they say, but they wanted to do what they had been saying they would do “someday.”
So with the help of friends and family members, Hunter Weeks and his friend Josh Caldwell decided to get a couple of Segway transporters and roll across the country from Seattle to Boston. They scrape together their credit cards and ask for contributions, and a friend pledges his financial support. They trust that as they get rolling, they’ll be able to attract more sponsors.
They get their expedition up and running, Josh always riding the Segway, and Hunter with his sister and another friend riding in a car that is towing a trailer full of gear and extra batteries and chargers, plus an extra Segway that Hunter rides when he is filming Josh some of the time. They call the Segway company and describe their quest, hoping that Segway will give them the vehicles, but the folks at Segway decline to sponsor them. So the guys just go to their nearest retailer and buy the lawnmower-like scooters anyway.
As you might have guessed, the interesting people they meet along the way are the highlights of the film. We get a sense of what it was like for these young corporate guys to slow down to 10 miles per hour, the average speed the Segway goes, and not only see the world but interact with it as well.
They use the Segway as the focus of an idea about how new technologies can help us reconnect. But this notion is not all that interesting compared with many of the people they meet. From one end of the country to another, people offer them food and shelter and fun and philosophy; only in a Chicago suburb do they get some grief from an officious police officer (who could clearly stand to take a similar break from his job for a while).
Of course, there are a few Dark Days for Josh, Hunter, and the rest of their support team, Gannon and Aron. Abdominal pain sends Aron to the hospital. Josh and Hunter stress about sponsorships. Most of their worries are financial, no thanks to their business partner Pat (who is shown only with his face blurred). Pat isn’t on the expedition but he had agreed to stake them with $20,000 of his money and help them drum up sponsors while they traveled and he stayed home and worked. Toward the end of the record-breaking Segway journey, though, Pat promises to deposit money that never shows up in their account and then goes AWOL for a couple of weeks. Meanwhile the crew on the road agonizes nightly over whether to liquidate their retirement accounts to buy the next tank of gas, now that their credit cards are all maxed out.
Somehow this transaction takes a lot of the starch out of the idea. While there’s nothing like the romance of a road trip, and this one has its share of magical moments, it is not nearly so romantic to watch someone cash in his 401(k) account over the phone.
In the end, 10 MPH wraps up their slo-mo cross-country experience and packages it a little too neatly: “We followed our dream and you should, too!” Yet it’s not hard to imagine that a sequel to 10 MPH, in which the group must deal with their credit card bills, might be a more suspenseful and memorable film.