Movie Review: Radio Flyer (1992)

Starring: Elijah Wood, Joseph Mazzello and Lorraine Bracco

Directed by: Richard Donner

A father reminisces with his kids about his own childhood when he and his little brother moved to the Californian suburbs with their mother and new step dad. When his younger brother, Bobby, is physically abused by their new step dad, Mike decides to convert their old red wagon into a plane so he can fly away to safety.

For some reason I’m not a big lover of children featuring in movies as they tend to drag the acting quality down or are extraordinarily annoying to watch. However, when the movie is carried by child actors and thrusts them as the main stars of the movie more often than not I’m a big fan. Movies such as The Sandlot, Home Alone, Stand By Me and The Little Rascals (which I saw for the first time last month) are all great examples of movies that I really enjoyed that allow child actors to take centre stage. Radio Flyer is a movie that I have never come across before but as soon as it started I was immediately intrigued by the inclusion of Tom Hanks. Tom Hanks plays Mike when he is grown up and has kids of his own and is largely used as the narrator as he tells a story about the meaning of promises to his kids.

The younger version of Mike is played by Elijah Wood who weirdly doesn’t look much different from when he played Frodo Baggins in the Lord of the Ring movies. He’s joined on screen by Joseph Mazzello who is mostly known for playing Tim in Jurassic Park but here he plays Mike’s younger brother, Bobby. Mike and Bobby are seemingly inseparable and move across country with their mother after their dad leaves. After arriving in California their Mum meets a guy who likes to be known as “The King” and they soon wed and move to the suburbs. Upon moving to the suburbs Mike begins to notice bruises all over Bobby’s back and is made aware that their step dad is beating him. Bobby makes Mike promise not to tell their mum as she’s finally happy so Mike must hold his tongue but begins to realise that Bobby is now his responsibility. They spend the entire summer exploring their new neighbourhood and spending as much time as they can away from the house so The King can’t abuse Bobby as often. The abuse doesn’t stop and Mike decides to build Bobby a makeshift plane from an old red wagon so he can fly away from his problems and live a happy life away from their abusive step father.

Firstly, I loved the story that Radio Flyer told, not the part about the child abuse but the togetherness and closeness of the two brothers. They were inseparable and the love they both showed for each other was great to watch as they had to overcome so many obstacles just to enjoy their summer. While it was tough to sit through the abusive scenes and watch the aftermath of a broken down Bobby, Radio Flyer does a great job at raising awareness about the issue which is an issue that unfortunately affects so many children around the world. Elijah Wood and co star Joseph Mazzello shared unbelievable chemistry on screen and were truly sensational to watch as their performances were both emotionally driven and awe inspiring. The story that is told is a story of imagination and creativity as the two brothers build a plane out of junk and scrap metal but whether the ending of the story is the way it happened or just the way adult Mike wants to remember it remains to be seen as it’s much nicer to remember a happy ending than a sad one.

The only real downside and annoyance I had with this film was the mother’s (Lorraine Bracco) inability to truly protect her children as she so easily accepts her husband back into her life even after he’s arrested for severely beating Bobby and putting him in the hospital. Regardless of finances and how much you may love the guy, to willingly accept him back and then offer his help to Mike and Bobby to lend a hand building their plane was infuriating. While the entire ending of the movie would’ve been different had the writers made her move on from her husband at least there’s a message to be learnt for people who are going through the same troubles and that’s more often than not an abuser will continue to abuse even after making promises that they’ll stop.

Overall, Radio Flyer was a very enjoyable movie as it was a woeful tale of misfortune and struggle but told in such a fantastically emotional way. The brothers bond made for a pleasing watch and I loved their dog,Shane, who went everywhere with them and tried protecting the boys whenever he could.


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