“…it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
Director William Bindley’s film about a declining Indiana riverport and the efforts of a team of hydroplane enthusiasts to overcome adversity failed to arouse much interest when it was released in the spring, despite the fact that it starred Jim Caviezel. He plays Jim McCormick, member of the team working on The Madison, the hydroplane named after their town.
Sad times have befallen both the town and the boat by 1971, the year in which the story is set. Madison was once one of the busiest river port north of New Orleans, but trucks and railroads have cut deeply into the river barge business. Jim’s wife Bonnie (Mary McCormack) urges Jim to follow the lead of so many others by moving to another town for employment, but her husband is too much of a hometown boy—and also he has become the head of the The Madison team. Supported by Mayor Don Vaughn (Paul Dooley), he has been able to bring the annual hydroplane contest to Madison, despite the objections of teams at the big city clubs. However, the boat is badly damaged when its decrepit engine explodes. Will the host city even be able to enter its own boat in the event that will be televised nationally?
Those who love such come-from behind movies as Breaking Away, Hoosiers, or Rudy, all, note, also set in Indiana, will know the answer to the above question. (So will those have been fortunate to visit recently what is now a thriving, charming tourist destination) The late night sequence in which the team sneaks into a near-by town to steal an engine from a tank that serves as a war memorial is a bit far-fetched, but we can chalk this up to the fact that the story is narrated by Jim’s son Mike, who was ten in 1971. Let’s hope that on video the film will find the family audience it deserves. No surprises in this “based on a true story” film, but plenty of satisfaction.