Welcome to Way Back Wednesday, a new regular column at The Longfellow Bridge that focuses on the magic of the not-so-distant past of the 80s and 90s. Music, movies, video games, television shows and more are all fair game for the enjoyment of hindsight.When my older brother Ryan received a copy of “Rad” on VHS as a joke gift for Christmas, I initially dismissed it as frivolous and needless.I can’t remember the first time I saw “Rad”, but I can conclusively say this: the first time I really saw “Rad” was the Christmas break of 1992. I was ten years old, and an oddly serious child. My thoughts were primarily dedicated to developing the plots of films or video games that I would surely create as an adult. I had a relatively small amount of time for the silliness that many children partake in, one cent goldfish notwithstanding. So when my older brother Ryan received a copy of “Rad” on VHS as a joke gift for Christmas, I initially dismissed it as frivolous and needless. Ryan and our older brother Darren began occupying the television every morning (I cannot stress their consistency enough) with a viewing of it, and I found myself a captive audience to what I deemed at that point to be a complete waste of time. Cause you know, God forbid I played outside or something.
Interestingly, in the course of several days of watching this movie repeatedly, two things happened. First, my brothers and I learned the dialogue word for word. I am convinced that if “Rad” were to be playing in the background of any setting, any of the three of us could pick up at any point in the film and begin reciting the dialogue with few to no errors. The second thing that happened was that I actually began to find a legit appreciation for terrible, terrible movies.The only thing standing in Cru’s way is the world famous, cause this is the 80s, BMX champion Bart Taylor and his creepy, breakdance-happy identical twin cohorts.If you’ve somehow missed “Rad,” it’s a 1986 film that follows the oft-used “talented local boy gets the chance to prove himself” plotline. When a big time BMX bike race called Helltrack comes to the smaller than small town Cochrane, local bicycle hero Cru Jones is willing to do whatever it takes to get a shot at being the best in the world. Similar to Springfield in the Simpsons, Cochrane appears to have a steady population of about twenty people who are present at any local event that occurs. Everyone in town knows Cru well from his job as a paperboy, cause we all know our paperboys on a conversational level, and their support for him is unwavering. The only thing standing in Cru’s way is the world famous, cause this is the 80s, BMX champion Bart Taylor and his creepy, breakdance-happy identical twin cohorts. There’s not too much else to say about the movie without giving away spoilers (LOL), but as is often the case with movies of this ilk, the true points of interest are the details.
For example, I cannot think of a single other movie in which a motorcycle cop frequently chases teenagers on bikes as a “game”. Another game the teenagers have is the eloquently named “Ass Sliding”, which involves sliding down a concrete log flume while sitting down. “Ass Sliding” is also considered a romantic action. And only in the “Rad” universe can a teenager call his obese boss “Blob” to his face with no repercussion: “The name’s Bob, not Blob, smart ass” is the witty retort from a grown man.
With that example in mind, it should be clear that the dialogue from “Rad” is weak, but the dialogue and scenes frequently border on surreal. In one instance, the president of the Mongoose Bicycle Company comes to visit Cru at work, and Cru’s unnamed friend alerts him in unnatural dialogue spoken in something that resembles forced Iambic Pentameter: “CRU, some BIG shot BIKE guy is outSIDE and he WANTS to talk to YOU!” At another point, Cru’s younger sister aggressively kicks a classmate in the shins, while her teacher makes no effort to stop this short of saying “whoa” repeatedly and awkwardly. In another, the aforementioned villains are interrupted from inappropriately dancing with their dates (the twins share a date) at a school dance by Cru and his love interest Lori Laughlin, and an inexplicably school-approved bike dance occurs. To quote David Byrne, “It’s like Sixty Minutes on acid.”“Rad” is a bad movie. Let’s just get that out of the way.“Rad” is a bad movie. Let’s just get that out of the way. From any sort of critical angle, the film fails: awful acting, sickeningly bad writing, and a shocking amount of visibly male stunt doubles for female roles. But for some reason, by Wednesday or so of that particular Christmas break all of that stopped mattering to me. I found legit enjoyment in a movie full of flaws. At this point, it stopped being about the movie being imperfect, and became more about enjoying a movie about a kid fully in love with his bike trying to make something of himself amidst the goofiest backdrop possible. And to this day, it’s still a lifelong goal of mine to cover the entire soundtrack. I guess you could make an argument that this was “quality time with my siblings” or what have you, but I find it to be interesting that in an era wherein “Field of Dreams” existed, we bonded over “Rad”. Perhaps that speaks to my brothers and myself, or perhaps it speaks to the youth of our generation. Dads picked “Field of Dreams” to bond with their kids; kids were free to pick “Rad” to bond with one another. And to this day, I’m more inclined to watch an obviously flawed movie than whatever critics like.
What takes you way back? Let us know in the comments below.