In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_sin_city_a_dame_to_kill_for_ver13

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

"Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" doesn't have the electricity of the original, mainly because we've already seen it. Nothing more is really revealed…

Thumb_pqlny7o714q2rle1gszmorzzjue

To Be Takei

“To Be Takei” is a conventional documentary that has a surprising emotional heft. A fun, informative exploration of the life of actor, activist and Trekkie…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Chaz's Blog Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives

Reviews

Radio Flyer

  |  

"Radio Flyer" pushes so many buttons that I wanted to start pushing back. One of the things I resisted was the movie's almost doglike desire to please. It seems to be asking: How can anyone dislike a movie that is against child abuse, and believes little red wagons can fly? I found it fairly easy. The movie pushes so many fundamental questions under the rug of its convenient screenplay that the happy ending seems like cheating, if not like fraud.

"Radio Flyer" begins with the compulsion, common to so much children's literature and film, to place its little heroes in a cruel and heartless world. Like all those cartoon characters who lose their parents, are kidnapped, or have their homes burned down or their families lost at sea, this one begins on a sad note, with a divorce. The central characters, Mike and Bobby, are then taken by their mother to California, where she marries a sadistic, drunken bully who wants to be called The King. When Mom isn't around, The King likes to beat little Bobby, who gets black and blue welts as a result.

The mother (Lorraine Bracco) is a strange case, an engaging, intelligent, hardworking woman who somehow fails to notice that she is married to a monster. She also misses the welts on Bobby's back, and of course her kids, feeling untrusted and abandoned, do not tell her about the beatings. Instead, they begin to plan an escape for little Bobby, by outfitting his Radio Flyer wagon with wings and an engine, so it will fly, and he can leave town and never come back.

They have some reason to think this plan will work. A kid named Fisher once coasted his wagon down a hill and up the slope of a barn, and he flew through the sky so high he was almost able to hitch a ride on the tail of a plane that was taking off from the valley. Of course, Fisher also suffered a terrible fall, and when we finally meet him, late in the picture, he is crippled, but there you have it: Heroes have to take chances.

I will not regale you with the details by which Bobby's maiden flight takes place. I was so appalled, watching this kid hurtling down the hill in his pathetic contraption, that I didn't know which ending would be worse. If he fell to his death, that would be unthinkable, but if he soared up to the moon, it would be unforgiveable - because you can't escape from child abuse in little red wagons, and even the people who made this picture should have been ashamed to suggest otherwise.

Who was this movie made for? Kids? Adults? What kid needs a movie about a frightened little boy who is at the mercy of drunken beatings? What adult can suspend so much disbelief that the movie's ending, a visual ripoff from "E.T.," inspires anything other than incredulity? What hypothetical viewer could they possibly have had in mind? "Radio Flyer" was a famous screenplay by David Mickey Evans, before it was a movie. It was one of the hottest screenplays in town, maybe because of the incongruity of its elements. If somebody at a story conference didn't describe this movie as "child abuse meets Peter Pan," they were missing a bet. It is utterly cynical from beginning to end, and never more cynical than in its contrived idealism. Was the screenplay so sought-after, so expensive, that no sane voice was heard, raising fundamental objections? Hollywood fought tooth and nail to spend a fortune on this screenplay. Was the movie launched in some kind of mass hysteria? I know that the voice-over narration suggests that maybe this wasn't the way the story really happened, and is only the way Mike, the older brother, now remembers it as an adult. OK, but then what did really happen? Did Bobby fall to his death? Did the cops haul away The King? Did Mom wise up? "Radio Flyer" is a real squirmarama of unasked and unanswered questions. At the end, there's an 800 number you can call if you want information on child abuse. I imagine the volunteers at the other end would have some pithy observations about this movie.

Popular Blog Posts

Different rules apply

White privilege, lived.

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Ferguson, Missouri: Third World America vs. Atlas Shrugged

An FFC looks at the horrible situation in Ferguson, MO and what it says about where we are and where we're going.

Retrieving the Grail: Robin Williams and "The Fisher King"

An examination and appreciation of one of Robin Williams' greatest films, "The Fisher King."

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus