Recounting his story to his sons, Mike tells how as a child, he and his brother envisioned a fantasy land as a distraction from their abusive stepfather. The boys even design a flying machine to take them there, meeting various different characters along the way.
One of the million dollar spec scripts that were hot news a few years ago, this had a traumatic production (writer David Mickey Evans was replaced as director by Richard Donner after a few days' shooting) and now creeps out as a rental premiere. Fundamentally misconceived but interesting, it has an uncredited Tom Hanks telling a story of his 60s childhood which takes an unusually whimsical, fantasy-tinged approach to very tricky subject matter (child abuse).
To evade their violent stepfather (Adam Baldwin), two boys construct a flying machine (inspired by Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) and plan an escape to a cloudy neverland. The nostalgic details are charming, there are excellent if skimpy effects (a giant buffalo, a Bigfoot cameo) and the children (Elijah Wood, Joseph Mazzello) are quite wonderful, but it's a puzzling, borderline distasteful film. The adults, who include Lorraine Bracco as mom, John Heard as the sheriff and Ben Johnson as an old-timer, rarely intrude on the kids' private world.
You can't help but feel that Radio Flyer must have looked a lot better on script than on screen, with the effects allowing us in share in the brothers' fantasies but when it comes to the abuse they suffered, things could have been dealt with more tastefully. Wood and Marzello put in strong performances, as do the supporting cast but it still doesn't make things right.