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Overall Rating

Awesome: 20.83%
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Just Average: 8.33%
Pretty Crappy: 20.83%

1 review, 18 user ratings

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Radio Flyer
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by Rob Gonsalves

"If I had to burn one film, this would be it."
1 stars

"Radio Flyer" comes advertised as a wonderful feel-good fantasy, but it’s one of the most infuriating films I ever expect to see. Thank Christ nobody fell for it.

Director Richard Donner (the Lethal Weapon series) sets out to make the impossible: an inspirational tale about child abuse. Every damn time the material starts to grow thorns, Donner clips them, backing off and laying on the soft-focus lighting and string instruments. The result is embarrassing at best and horribly misleading at worst.

The plot is simple. A genial father (Tom Hanks, squinting into the sun a lot) gathers his two sons around him and tells them about his childhood — when he, Mike, was eleven and his brother Bobby was eight. The film segues into his story, with Hanks narrating Stand by Me-style. It’s 1969, and little Mike (Elijah Wood) and Bobby (Joseph Mazzello) travel cross-country with their recently divorced mom (Lorraine Bracco), who wants to make a fresh start. They settle in California, where Bracco meets and marries a welder (Adam Baldwin), who turns out to be a boozehound and worse: Late at night, when Bracco is at work, Baldwin singles out little Bobby and beats him with an electrical cord. Bobby makes Mike promise not to tell, because he wants his mom to stay happy. But Mike has to do something, and one night he has a vision of a weeping buffalo — a buffalo he saw on a ranch while en route to California. The buffalo gives Mike some obscure advice, and soon the kids start work on a modified Radio Flyer wagon — a flying machine that will deliver Bobby from Baldwin’s clutches. Things get really bad at home, and in the tearful climax Bobby soars away in the contraption, free at last.

What kind of foolishness are Donner and screenwriter David Mickey Evans selling here? What world do they live in? Donner’s other films have tended towards the manipulative, but this is his worst yet. In an unforgivable scene, the boys’ faithful, adorable dog appears to be dead — beaten to a pulp by Baldwin — and then turns out fine; this dog also saves the kids from a gang of punks, who have no reason to be in the movie other than to supply dumb tension every half hour. The boys playing Mike and Bobby give prodigious, heartfelt performances — Elijah Wood was a formidable presence even then, even in shit like this — but their roles are written as perfect, polite Disney kids, thoughtful and sensitive beyond their years. And they’re used so shamelessly as figures of innocence that you expect to see a halo pop up over poor Bobby’s head. The sad spectacle of an adult brute victimizing young dreamers is such a creaky cliché anyway — this stuff is what Adam Baldwin, a compelling actor in the right role (as any Firefly fan will attest), was already transcending when he played the tough, misunderstood Linderman in My Bodyguard. Baldwin is certainly effective as the psycho stepdad, and the movie obviously wants you to hate him, but you also end up hating the movie.

If it were only sickly-sweet and inept, Radio Flyer would be dismissible, but its stabs at comforting metaphor backfire and make it contemptible. I’m sure Donner and Evans (who was once the director before he was fired and Donner was brought on board) didn’t intend to make a hurtful, exclusionary film, but that’s what this is. Bobby’s flight can be taken as a metaphor for the way some abused children retreat into fantasy to escape ugly reality. But here it’s too literal — it could just as well mean that Bobby gets beaten to death and “flies away” that way — and it’s presented as something only the visionary Bobby can do. The movie says, It’s okay not to tell anyone that your stepdad beats you; as long as you’re imaginative and wish real hard for it to stop, things will work out. But most abused children don’t have “Radio Flyers” — they remain resentful and frightened well into adulthood. If they live that long.

"Radio Flyer" is about as cruel and thoughtless a movie as can be.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=2395&reviewer=416
originally posted: 05/22/06 01:12:17
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User Comments

4/26/13 Iyad It's one of the best movies i ever watched 5 stars
8/09/09 Jane love the movie!my take bobby really didnt exist just Mike's way to deal with abuse 5 stars
6/06/06 Dave Webber Sentimental, wraps child abusein cotton wool, has majorproblems. 2 stars
5/25/06 The Talking Elbow Rob's review hit some points that have bothered me about this movie since I was little. Thx 1 stars
5/23/06 Amy This movie was wonderful 4 stars
5/22/06 Darren Promotes silence of abused children w/ message fantasy is your escape-avoid confrontation 2 stars
5/31/05 Jeff Anderson Depressing & upsetting to watch. Wood & Mazzello's performances TRULY save it! 3 stars
2/21/05 Captain Craig A long commercial against child abuse with a completely stupid ending. 2 stars
10/12/04 Laura How can u say that??!!! 5 stars
7/27/04 Baz I liked it, but not really sure why 4 stars
6/04/02 Marty I liked this movie so much I added a copy to my collection. 5 stars
3/26/02 Jon Gianelli It really, truly brought me back to childhood... at least for a few moments. 5 stars
3/03/02 marj johnson it is too "far-out" 3 stars
2/05/02 nats touching, with many different out looks. could both boys be aspects of one? 4 stars
2/05/02 L.S. Galley A poignant, touching film. It moved me. 4 stars
8/08/01 E-Funk Goes nowhere real fast. I wanted to like it but couldn't. 2 stars
1/12/01 The Evil Penguin ~~~ 2 stars
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  02-Feb-1992 (PG-13)
  DVD: 12-Oct-2004



Directed by
  Richard Donner

Written by
  David M. Evans

  Lorraine Bracco
  John Heard
  Elijah Wood
  Adam Baldwin
  Joseph Mazzello
  Tom Hanks

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