MOVIE REVIEWS : WHOA THERE, DUDE, WHAT’S SO ‘RAD’?
Probably no movie in recent memory uses the words radical and dude as much as “Rad” (citywide). You seem to be hearing them every minute or so. But that doesn’t mean it’s a radical movie . . . dude. The whole thing reminds you more of an overanxious teacher or coach, taking a few slang words and repeating them endlessly in a doomed attempt to “relate.”
“Rad” is about BMX bicycle racing. As long as it sticks to the bikes--odd little models that have a low center of gravity, wobble as they ride and can seemingly hop over any obstacle and land in perfect balance--it’s pretty entertaining. Director Hal Needham is always good with cars, and it stands to reason he’d be good with bikes, too. He seems to have fun staging the BMX races--which take place on a twisty, trap-laden small-town obstacle course called Helltrack, and supposedly pit the country’s top BMX specialists against one another (along with one determined home owner).
The movie is as predictable as a TV wrestling match--which isn’t necessarily bad. You know who’s going to win the race, and you know what romance is going to strike up. When Jack Weston shows up as Helltrack’s perfidious sponsor--snorting up a virtual squall of villainy--you can guess every devious scheme he and his minion will try to pull. Predictability and silly scripting don’t always have to be vices--though they’re definitely vices in “Rad”: minor, disagreeable ones.
Ever since “Smokey and the Bandit II,” Needham has been having trouble whenever his characters hop off their bikes or out of their cars and try to say something. His comedy style has gotten afflicted with leaden whimsy and a critical case of the macho cutes, and his ideas about timing and delivery seem to come from celebrity roasts, ‘60s Disney features, Lite Beer commercials, “Monday Night Football” and TV talk-show banter. Only a few of his actors (like Weston or Ray Walston here) can bring it off without looking foolish. Recently, in outtakes run under the closing credits of Needham’s Burt Reynolds pictures, the bloopers have been funnier than anything in the films. (You’d think something would eventually dawn on a director, whose scripts consistently play better when the actors mess them up than when they get the lines right.)
“Rad” isn’t coy and elephantine, such as “Stoker Ace” or “Cannonball Run,” but it isn’t trim and slick and irreverent like “Smokey and the Bandit” either. It lives on its action and dies on its gab. It also would have been better without all those songs about catching the thunder and grabbing the lightning and going for the glory. They sound like a rejected ad campaign for Old Milwaukee. In movies like this, action is often enough--but here, it’s just not radical. ‘RAD’
A TriStar release of a Taliafilm II/Robert L. Levy production. Producer Robert L. Levy. Director Hal Needham. Script Sam Bernard, Geoffrey Edwards. Executive producer Jack Schwartzman. Music James Di Pasquale. With Bill Allen, Lori Loughlin, Talia Shire, Jack Weston, Ray Walston.
Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.
MPAA rating: PG (parental guidance suggested; some material may not be suitable for children).