on April 22, 2005 by Annlee Ellingson
Based on a true story, "Madison" is a charming if cliched celebration of small-town America. Set in the early '70s in Madison, Ind., where hydroplane boat racing isn't just a weekend pastime but a way of life, the slick production is told through the eyes of 10-year-old Mike McCormick ("Star Wars: Episode I--The Phantom Menace's" Jake Lloyd), whose dad Jim ("Frequency's" Jim Caviezel) was injured competing in the sport a decade before. No longer able to race, Jim heads the engineering team prepping the Miss Madison, the townspeople-owned hydroplane, for the racing circuit. The Miss Madison hasn't won a race in years, out-financed by teams with deep-pocketed sponsors like Budweiser, but Jim and his buddies keep traveling the country with her out of loyalty to the people of Madison.

At one such event, Jim overhears that the city of San Diego wants in on the circuit but is demanding Labor Day weekend--the dates that Madison traditionally hosts the races. Determined that Madison will not be bullied out of the sport, he accepts an invitation to host the biggest race of the year, hustling the $50,000 deposit.

But with the closure of Woolworth's and Midwest Barge and Coal, Madison's largest employer, Jim realizes that the town needs a bigger shot in the arm: Miss Madison needs to win the race, and when the hotshot driver they hire dies in a boat-race accident just days before, Jim takes him it upon himself to restore Madison's confidence in her team and in herself.

Quickly proving to be one of Hollywood's most appealing leading men, Caviezel brings both humor and sincerity to his role, and Lloyd, now a few years older, is not nearly as wooden as he was in "The Phantom Menace."

Garnering an warm response at a Sundance screening, "Madison" looks and feels like a Hollywood production, smoothly intercutting actual footage from ABC's "Wide World of Sports'" coverage of the actual climactic event with a reenactment of Madison's triumph, complete with a manipulative score that swells at just the right moments to elicit a specific emotional response from the audience. Still, it succeeds. Recalling a sweeter era in filmmaking, "Madison" is a movie you can watch with your grandmother. Starring Jim Caviezel, Jake Lloyd, Mary McCormack, Bruce Dern, Paul Dooley and Brent Briscoe. Directed by William Bindley. Written by William Bindley and Scott Bindley. Produced by Martin Wiley and William Bindley. An MGM release. Drama. Rated Rated PG for some mild language and sports peril. Running time: 94 min

Tags: sports, racing, hydroplane racing, Jake Lloyd, Jim Caviezel, Mary McCormack, Bruce Dern, Paul Dooley, Brent Briscoe, William Bindley, Scott Bindley

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