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 upon 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
Many of the real life characters names of the Miss Budweiser team have been changed for the film, they are: Roger Epperson, who was based on the real life late Miss Budweiser owner, Bernie Little; his son Bobby was based on either of his sons, Bernie Jr or Joe Little and Rick Inston was based on Dean Cheonoweth, the driver of the team until his fatal accident in 1981. See more »
Shots showing the crowd show numerous folding "bag chairs". Chairs such as this were introduced in the 1990s. Folding chairs of the time would be metal tube framed with woven fabric strap seats. See more »
Adult Mike McCormick:
Why is it that everything important that happens to you when you're a kid, happens during the summer? In the summer of 1971 I was ten years old, and the only thing I looked forward to more than the last day of school, was the first day of practice of the hydroplane racing season. You could say Madison kids were born into racing, the same way some folks were born into the oil business or farming.
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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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