Madison Movie Review

Four years of dust, mold, and caked-on grime have collected around Madison, a sleep-inducing yarn produced way back in 2001. Why then is MGM picking this relic off the shelves for theatrical distribution? We'll never know.

Madison is based on a true story, though not a very good one, about an underdog Indiana-based power boat racing team led by Jim McCormick (James Caviezel), his impressionable son, Mike (Jake Lloyd), and their affable crew. In 1971, faced with overwhelming odds, the Madison squad raised $50,000 and hosted the sport's year-end Gold Cup event, a televised race that brought tremendous exposure and drive to their cash-strapped mill town.

Movies like Madison usually spring from Disney's studio, go straight to video, or star a cute pooch named Benji. Writer/director William Bindley gears his story for families, spoon feeding goodness as he softens dialogue and smoothes over conflict corners. Of all the trappings he could address, Bindley chooses to stand atop a soapbox of clichés and hammer home Madison's status on the Midwest poverty chain. He ham fists the opposing big-city prosperity versus small-town gumption, striving for nobility in small-town honesty but ending up with the sheer boredom that chases most residents (John Cougar Mellencamp included) to the dreaded "big cities."

The cast achieves acting levels reserved for state-sponsored hazard films, the kind that warn high school kids about cigarettes and driving while drunk. Lloyd, best known as the young Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, sharpened his chops working for George Lucas, a director more comfortable crafting a computer-generated effect than he is coaxing believable performances out of living, breathing actors. Caviezel, a model of consistency, wears the same reaction shot from start to finish.

Deep down, I'd like to be able to recommend this bland paste of mushy, unchallenging piousness for the entire family, though only naïve adolescents with no prior film knowledge will stomach the pap. The rest of us will see where this is going and wisely venture off in another direction. Madison moves too slowly for kids, and sounds too simple for adults. It's a walking, talking Hallmark card sentiment stretched to feature length.

When you type "madison" into filmcritic.com's search engine, you get two noteworthy results: Adam Sandler's Billy Madison and The Bridges of Madison County. Now there are two movies I'd rather watch than this.

Comments

Madison Rating

" Unbearable "

Rating: PG, 2001

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