Madison, Indiana, 1971. The Ohio river port is in full economic decline, its last pride and obsession being its uniquely town-owned power boat, although the raggedy old donation from a millionaire decades ago never comes close to a win. With his doted son Mike as most devoted fan, air-conditioner repairman Jim McCormick, who had to stop piloting it after a near-fatal accident, devotes all his 'spare' time to it, turning down professional opportunities as that would mean moving, as his wife suggests. Things climax when he realizes the town will either be scrapped from the national racing circuit or host the Gold Cup itself, requiring $50,000 fund raising. Written by
The boat depicted as the Miss Budweiser, actually raced under the Budweiser name in 1980. The Budweiser hydroplane at the time flipped and was severely damaged while trying to qualify in the Seattle Seafair race. Chuck Hickling, who was the builder and owner of the boat then known as the Tempus, agreed to race the boat under the Budweiser name and number, U-12, to finish the season and win the National High Point Championship. See more »
The McCormick resided in Owensboro, Kentucky; not in Madison, Indiana as the film stated. See more »
This is, to my knowledge, the only feature film ever to be made about professional boat racing. And it tells what is probably the most compelling story the sport has ever produced: how the little river town of Madison, Indiana, came to host the 1971 APBA Gold Cup race (the sport's equivalent of the Indy 500) and how driver Jim McCormick struggled to lead Madison's community-owned racing boat, the Miss Madison, into the race.
As a sports movie, "Madison" feels fairly similar to the Disney baseball movie, "The Rookie", which came out a few years ago. It places the sports story squarely within the context of family life, and its fundamental message is that of the value of community--especially small-town communities like Madison. (Hoosier rocker John "Small Town" Mellencamp even provides the narration for the movie.) Since this is a story about small-town underdogs taking on the big city favorites, it resembles other Indiana sports movies in many ways--"Breaking Away", "Rudy", "Hoosiers", etc. Its storyline is not really unique in that respect. But the movie is reasonably well done, and it really pulls you into the excitement of boat racing in the final sequence, through some really nice cinematography.
I guess I can't help but feel like there was a missed opportunity here, though. It is unlikely that there will ever be another movie made about professional boat racing, so it would have been nice if "Madison" could have taught us more about what makes the people who are involved in the sport tick. There is one interesting comment made towards the end of the film about how "only someone who's raced boats can understand why so many men have given their lives for the sport." There was a lot behind that statement, I think--especially when made in reference to a sport which has such a notoriously dangerous reputation as boat racing. I just wish I could have come away from this movie with an even better understanding of where it came from.
Besides that...this is a nice little movie, and a fine tribute to Jim McCormick and the people of Madison. Go ahead and take your kids to it, and don't forget to stick around for the final credits...
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