Rad is generally described as The Karate Kid with BMX bikes which is only partially true. Where The Karate Kid was a movie in which the actual character learned something, made progress and eventually came out on top with the help of some classic movie montages and John Esposito’s “You’re The Best”, Rad features a kid who already is the best BMX bike rider in town and the only obstacle he has to overcome is to learn how to do a back-flip, something which isn’t even used in the final race. First rule of sports movies: have your protagonist fail at a certain technique at first so that in the final showdown all comes down to performing that technique with success. I’m still perfecting my Crane technique almost 30 years later.
Rad is an obscure movie cashing in on two trends at the time: BMX bikes and sports movies like Rocky and aforementioned Karate Kid. The end-result is a weird but very watchable movie which has a lead character, named Cru, that basically seems to see his BMX bike as his conjoined twin. We rarely seem him without it. This guy rides his bike though the school corridors and even takes it with him to a school dance, a scene which ends up in what is most probably the most ridiculous dance scene ever, it’s also very funny because it takes itself so seriously. Just watch it for yourself:
If there was ever a movie that defined guilty pleasure for me it’s this one. It’s so dated, unrealistic, badly acted, and yet so much fun to watch. I had a great 90 minutes just because this movie tries so hard to make something as silly as guys doing tricks on a BMX bike be so cool. The lengths the makers went to incorporate bikes in every scene, even when the lead boy and girl go out on a date which consists of them doing all sorts of tricks together and even landing their bikes in the water on purpose.
Even the story hardly makes any sense. A small town is organizing a BMX race named Helltrack and the best BMX racers are invited to compete. To make this event extra attractive for the local youth a race is organized for them of which the winner wins $10,000 and a place in the actual race. Of course local hero Cru wins but then some of the organizers protest his participation in Helltrack and go to great lengths of denying him his earned position by coming up with rules like “You don’t have a sponsor” and “Oh you have a sponsor? Well then, he needs to make at least $40,000 a year in profit”. So the second act is basically a couple of kids and older townsfolk coming up with the money.
One would expect reigning champion Bart Taylor with his blond hair would be the antagonist, but he’s basically neutered and doesn’t do much. There is no “sweep the leg” in this apparent Karate Kid rip-off, quite the contrary; in the final race he actually waits for Cru to catch up to him so they can go one on one. That’s is actually a very nice gesture of him, he could have just decided to keep on biking and win the thing. This is very strange because he looks just like Johnny Lawrence or even like Malfoy from Harry Potter, you really expect him to be evil. The bad guys are just a couple of local business men who try to keep someone out of a race. The stakes aren’t really high in Rad.
With the right mindset Rad is an awesome movie. It’s a great document of era long gone and just fun to watch to see how serious it takes itself when all you get us scene after scene with guys and girls doing tricks on BMX bikes. This was a sports movie when it was released, aging has turned it into a comedy.