Mitchell Goosen (McDermott) is a teenager from California who loves to surf and rollerblade. His zoologist parents are given the opportunity for grant work in Australia for six months. Eager to accompany his parents to the surf-friendly shores of the South Pacific, he is dismayed to find out that he will not be joining them and instead will be living with his aunt and uncle in Cincinnati, Ohio, so as to finish the remainder of his high school semester. He arrives in Cincinnati in the midst of a winter storm, quickly coming to the realization that this is far from the free-spirited ocean atmosphere that he has been accustomed to. He meets his cousin Wiley (Green), an awkward but affable teenager and his aunt and uncle whose lifestyle and demeanor, though warm and hospitable, is a bit old-fashioned.
Mitchell's first day at school is met with the typical fish out of water obstacles as he immediately grows to the disfavor and jealousy of the gritty hockey players who chastise Mitchell for his easygoing "Maharishi" philosophy and "California" appearance. These antagonists include Jack (Conrad), Augie (Black), Snake (Vargas), Rosenblatt, and the Banduccis. With an upcoming hockey game against the rival "preps", led by the aggressive and arrogant Blane, Wiley and subsequently Mitchell are asked to fill-in for two students who are caught putting a laxative into one of their teacher's coffee. Mitchell accidentally scores a goal for the preps, cementing his status as outcast with the hockey players. Jack is particularly upset and proceeds to tackle Mitchell while still on the ice, concussing him and leaving him unconscious for what appears to be hours.
Over the course of the next few weeks, Mitchell and Wiley are harassed and pranked relentlessly, but one bright spot comes in the form of a girl named Nikki (Powell), who Mitchell makes a deep connection with. During a double date with Wiley and Nikki's friend Gloria, Blane (who is revealed as Nikki's ex) appears and physically confronts Mitchell and Nikki. Mitchell, a staunch pacifist, is attempting to defuse the situation peacefully even as Wiley is hurt in the confrontation. The intervention of Jack further complicates the situation as he is revealed to be Nikki's brother, and is not happy to see her with Mitchell. Mitchell is at first flippant to Jack's aggression, but steadfastly refuses to fight Jack. At Jack's insistence that Mitchell is backing out because he's scared, Mitchell's laidback stoicism cracks and he replies that he won't fight Jack because he and subsequently anyone else in Cincinnati isn't worth his time or effort as he's leaving in three months. Upon hearing this, Nikki leaves, heartbroken, having taken his comments to include her as well. Wiley also expresses his disappointment in Mitchell for not at least standing up for Nikki.
In school, Nikki rebuffs Mitchell's attempts at reconciliation and Wiley is also upset. Sometime later, Mitchell is inspired by a dream (involving a Spanish-speaking shark named Pepe) to fight for Nikki without fighting Jack. Wiley is skeptical, but follows his cousin to a street hockey game between Jack's friends and the Preps the next day. Mitchell approaches the team who ostensibly agree to let him play (hoping to watch him suffer an injury), but are taken aback when he easily scores a goal against the preps. In the next play, it would appear that Mitchell suffers a setback when Blane takes a cheap shot, and he again backs down from a fight, but then Mitchell takes his revenge by sneaking up on Blane and pantsing him in front of the crowd, revealing he's not wearing any underwear under his jock strap. He escapes a pack of preps, but only after reconciling with Nikki, asserting to her that there are some things worth fighting for. Snake, Augie, the Banduccis, and Rosenblatt (Jack being notably absent) visit Mitchell at home, at first appearing to be hostile but then raising him up over their heads, celebrating his actions against Blane and finally accepting him as a new friend. They solicit Mitchell's help and rollerblading expertise in a race down a harrowing street route termed "Devil's Backbone" against the preps to settle their score once and for all.
On the day of the race, it is agreed upon that the first team with three members crossing the finish line will be deemed the winner. Jack and Mitchell have a silent moment where they at least grudgingly appear to bury the hatchet. The race begins and many skaters, including Auggie, are injured. Snake takes the lead, with two of the preps struggling to keep pace with him. Jack and Blane follow, and after some difficult struggles, Mitchell start to bridge the gap. The remaining preps fall behind when the Banducci twins forego racing altogether in favor of simply fighting them all. Snake is the first across the finish line, located on the harbor by Riverfront Stadium, followed closely by two preps. Mitchell loses sight of Blane and Jack, but catches up by jumping from a second-story parking lot and landing on a makeshift ramp provided by a flatbed truck. Jack falls, but Blane, with the finish line in sight, attempts to push Mitchell into the water. Mitchell stops short and Blane falls into the river. Mitchell goes back, helps up Jack and the two cross the finish line together to the cheers of their awaiting schoolmates. Mitchell has finally earned the respect of Jack and his friends, and he is lifted on the shoulders of a cheering crowd. Mitchell and Nikki reunite and share a kiss as the movie ends.
- Shane McDermott as Mitchell Goosen
- Seth Green as Wiley Metzner
- Brittney Powell as Nikki
- Chris Conrad as Jack
- Edie McClurg as Irene Metzner
- Patrick O'Brien as Louie Metzner
- Jack Black as Jose Augusto Rafael "Augie" de la Parra
- Alanna Ubach as Gloria
- Jacob Vargas as Snake
- Owen Stadele as Blane
- Jessica Boevers as Alexis
- Chris Edwards was Walt
- Daniel Betances as Tony Banducci
- David Betances as Mark Banducci
- Travis Hafer Ice Skating / Roller Hockey Extra
- Christian McVeigh as Supermac
On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, it holds a 21% approval rating, based on 14 reviews, with an average rating of 2.74/10. The website's consensus reads, "Airborne skates downhill with a threadbare story, flat characters, and wince-inducing dialogue."
In a review for the Los Angeles Times, Chris Willman commended the production team for their efforts, praising cinematographer Okada for giving the film "a surprising natural light look" and composer Copeland for providing "a well above average rock score", and giving huge credit to second unit director Steve Boyum, stunt coordinator Pat Parnell and the skaters for making the skating scenes and finale "inherently cinematic".
Willman added that, "Off the skates, it's at best mediocre Nickelodeon fare", writing that "[A]s the first major filmic celebration of in line skating and holy Rollerbladers, Airborne (citywide) is hell on wheels and itchy limbo off. The occasional action scenes are as appropriately tortuous as the tired teen out of water plot is torturous. This is a kid flick that's speed skating on one leg."
The New York Times's Stephen Holden called it "a modest attempt to take a familiar genre, the surf movie, and spin it into a new subgenre, the Rollerblades film."
The film was released in 982 theaters. It made $2,850,263 domestically, and $1,262,239 in its opening weekend.
- "Airborne (1993)".. Retrieved on July 9, 2020.
- Willman, Chris (September 20, 1993). "'Airborne' Skates Past Plot Points".. Tronc. Retrieved on April 12, 2018.
- Stephen Holden (September 18, 1993). "Making a Race on Skates the Reason to Exist".. The New York Times Company. Retrieved on April 12, 2018.
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