Rad (1986)

Although scientists have yet to perfect time travel, the closest weve come to it are fad movies you know the ones, those movies that whisk you back to the exact moment in time a fad exploded into the mainstream. Movies like Breakin, Thrashin, and The Wizard not only captured fads (breakdancing, skateboarding and videogames, respectively) but the entire culture surrounding those activities; everything from the clothes and music to the language were permanently preserved in these moving slices of history. While these movies tend to quickly fade in popularity (or at least at the same rate as the fads they are based upon), they continue to stand as time capsules, preserving moments in time when things were significantly more awesome.

Rad (1986) is the story Cru Jones (Bill Allen), high school senior and BMX rider extraordinaire. Jones works both at the local deli and as a newspaper delivery boy, presumably socking away cash for college in the fall. Cru’s plans change when Helltrack, a cutting edge BMX racetrack, is erected in his backyard. Jones picks attending a qualifying race over taking his SATs, which seems like a poor choice until Jones scores enough points to win a shot at racing against the pros at Helltrack.

Winning Helltrack wont be easy, as Cru will be up against the best of the best. Duke Best, the man behind Helltrack, has brought his own racers including top-rated BMX racer Bart Taylor (Bart Conner) and his twin teammates Rod and Rex Reynolds (Chad and Carey Hayes). Cru will have to win both on the track and off, as Duke stacks the deck against the local hero, continually changing the rules in an effort to protect his investments. Fortunately, Jones has the town, his family, and his new love interest and fellow bike rider Christian Hollings (Lori Loughlin) rallying behind him but will that be enough?

Let’s be honest here. You could probably find deeper plots in your average television commercial, but then again this genre never really was plot-driven. Within ten minutes of the opening of the film it becomes obvious that Jones is headed for Helltrack — at that point the plots only purpose is to get us from here to there while throwing some minor obstacles into the mix along the way.

There must only a handful of plot ideas used in these types of movies, all of which get recycled here in Rad. For example, when Cru discovers he needs a professional sponsor, the whole town rallies behind him, raising $50,000 through t-shirt sales. In real life this would never work (I don’t even buy Girl Scout cookies anymore) but in movies like this one of course the entire town springs to action, from the cop who spends all his time chasing the kids to the crotchety old man (Ray Walston), who initially comments how great the world would be without kids.

Another recycled plot device is the special move that only the protagonist has mastered and will be able to use. Heres its a back flip, a move we see Cru Jones practicing earlier in the film. Youll never guess how he manages to pull ahead near the end of the big race!

Even goofier are things like the leader of the race (Taylor) stopping and letting Cru catch up so that he can challenge him man-to-man. Its the equivalent of every villain explaining his evil plans to the hero before his or her demise; it never works out. Of course this takes place at Helltrack, with the entire town in attendance. I love scenes like that, just like the scene from The Last Starfighter where the entire trailer park comes down to watch Alex beat the high score on a videogame. What a great world this would be if everyone from my neighborhood came over to watch me get the high score on a videogame or try a new trick on a bicycle.

One of the few realistic things about Rad is the product placement, which is so prominent and bountiful that it would not surprise me if, after seeing this movie, you went out and bought a Mongoose bicycle, pedaled down to your local 7-11 and bought yourself a delicious, ice-cold Coca Cola. The product placement in this movie is so blatant that even people not looking for it will notice it. I suppose another realistic aspect of the film the kids language not only are lots of awesome, gnarly, and radicals found within, but there are plenty of bullshits and assholes too. Not uncommon words to hear come out of the mouths of high school students, but uncommon to hear in otherwise family-friendly movies marketed toward them (especially back in 1986).

Any review of Rad would be remiss not to mention its infamous dance scene, during which Cru and Christian perform a “bicycle boogie,” crashing the party by “dancing” on their bicycles to Real Life’s “Send Me an Angel.” (YouTube Link) I can’t tell which is more ridiculous, the entire idea or Lori Loughlin’s stunt double (and cheezy tricks). It’s so bad, it’s good. It’s great.

Rad, like Breakin and Thrashin, will live on in the world of cult classics. Im sure some day Ill show the movie to my kids with a gleam in my eye as we talk about the good old days when we used to pedal bicycles and the neighbors used to come over to watch me practice wheelies.

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