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 the midst of a winter storm to a blue-collar Midwestern city, quickly coming to the realization that this is far from the free-spirited beach atmosphere that he has been accustomed to. To add to his disillusion, he meets his cousin Wiley (Green), who at first glance is an awkward teenager and whose parents' 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 easy going "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 (never shown in the film). Mitchell inadvertently scores a goal for the preps, cementing his disdain by the hockey players, and in particular Jack, who 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 relentlessly, but one bright spot comes in the form of a girl named Nikki (Powell), who Mitchell falls in love with, and she seems to reciprocate. During a double date with his cousin and Nikki's friend Gloria, Blane, who used to date Nikki, appears and physically confronts Mitchell and Nikki, who are only saved when Jack arrives to stand up for Nikki who, as it turns out, is also Jack's sister. Jack attempts to make Mitchell fight him by making fun of his relationship with Nikki, but Mitchell doesn't fight back, and claims that despite all the torture Jack and his friends put on him and Wiley, he will never fight back, because he'll be going back to California in three months. Though Mitchell's claim stops Jack from attempting to fight him, it greatly disappoints both Nikki and Wiley; Nikki because Mitchell claims that he'll be glad when he goes back home, and Wiley because he thinks Mitchell should've done something, and not back away from the confrontation like he just did.
All the issues Mitchell has experienced culminates with a dream Mitchell wakes to which convinces him to peacefully confront the situation. Mitchell decides to proactively join Jack and his ice hockey brethren for a street hockey game against the preps. Mitchell does well in the game and though he doesn't fight back against Blane when he attacks him, he embarrasses him by pulling down his pants; this endears a change of heart from his teammates.
Snake, Augie, the Banduccis, and the rest of the hockey team, with the notable exception of Jack, 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. It is agreed upon that the first team with three members crossing the finish line will be deemed the winner. An aggressive and athletic Snake reaches the finish first for Mitchell's team, but two preps swiftly follow suit. Needing only one more person to win and with Blane in sight of the end, Blane decides to barrel into Mitchell but poorly times his attack and instead lands in the waters below. This leaves Jack and Mitchell in clear sight of the finish line, as they approach in tandem victory to the cheers of their awaiting schoolmates, and kisses of respective love interests. Mitchell has finally earned the respect of Jack and his friends, and he is lifted on the shoulders of a cheering crowd as the movie ends.
Mitchell - Shane McDermott
Wiley - Seth Green
Nikki - Brittney Powell
Jack - Chris Conrad
Aunt Irene - Edie McClurg
Uncle Louie - Patrick O'Brien
Augie - Jack Black
Gloria - Alanna Ubach
Snake - Jacob Vargas
Blane - Owen Stadele
Walt - Chris Edwards
Tony Banducci - Daniel Betances
Mark Banducci - David Betances
Ice Skating / Roller Hockey Extra - Travis Hafer
Supermac - Christian McVeigh
The film was released in 982 theaters. It made $2,850,263 domestically, and $1,262,239 in its opening weekend.