Los Angeles Film Festival

The evergreen topic of kids' competitions gets a new twist in "Jump!" a winning documentary about competitive jump roping that follows a group of charismatic young athletes from intensive training to the sport's world championships. Yes, to these kids, their families, coaches and supporters, jump roping is a serious sport that some affirm will one day become an Olympic event. Enlivened by spirited subject matter, engaging interviews and remarkable athleticism, "Jump!" has all the right moves for sustained festival play and could find a welcome reception in limited theatrical release before landing adroitly on TV and DVD.

No longer limited to a playground pastime or traditional double-dutch leagues, jump roping now involves 400,000 boys, girls and teens worldwide in local, regional and national events, culminating in the biennial world competition. Docu producer Helen Hood Scheer stepped into this unfamiliar arena for her directorial debut, following six teams of jumpers over two years beginning in 2005.

Scheer focuses on promising competitors from each team, including 19-year-old world champion Marcus, powerhouse high school teammates Nick and Jeff and speed demon Tori, 12. In-depth personal interviews with the athletes, as well as their coaches and family members, along with scenes of training sessions, establish each subject's personality and competitive goals.

Marcus, Nick, Jeff and Tori are among the contenders who go on to the annual ESPN-broadcast national competition that forms the centerpiece of the docu as the filmmakers feature the top athletes and most imposing events. Originality and risk-taking are among the hallmarks of jump roping, inspiring competitors to devise increasingly complex and challenging routines that they are surprisingly open to sharing with others.

Scheer's informal interviews and mobile digital camerawork spotlighting intense contest sequences adeptly capture the essence of the sport. Scott B. Morgan's dynamic editing, employing split screen and widescreen, multiple-image techniques, echoes the jumpers' creativity. While the filmmakers' enthusiasm for the sport is equal to their subjects', some repetitive sequences are unnecessary and several scenes and interviews that are marred by poor audio or unfocused shots could be edited or handled in voice-over. The multiplicity of participants is sometimes difficult to follow and overall at least 10 minutes could be cut from the 100-minute running time.

Throughout the film, the contestants make a lasting impression with their skill, determination, camaraderie and anything-goes enthusiasm. "Jump!" amply demonstrates that jump roping is a rapidly growing sport that deserves a place alongside more traditional athletic events -- and maybe even a shot at the Olympics.

Nutshell Prods.
Director/producer/director of photography: Helen Hood Scheer
Screenwriters: Helen Hood Scheer, Scott B. Morgan
Executive producer: Andrew Herwitz
Music: Matt Messina
Editor: Scott B. Morgan
Running time -- 100 minutes
No MPAA rating