I'd like to first address the folks who haven't seen the film and are unfamiliar with it, or its topic...
This sleeper film, as noted, is based around the true story of an under-dog hometown racing boat team that tried to win the "big one" against long odds in front of their home crowd. But the boat, the effort required to make the race happen, and the race itself is really secondary to the relationship between a 10 year-old son (Jake Lloyd) and his father (Jim Caviezel) as the demands of work, family, the sense of civic duty and the boat begin to pull the relationship, as well as his marriage, apart under a great deal of stress.
Some have criticized this film as a formula driven "feel-good" sports film, and I suppose that this is true to a point. However, the acting is very believable and heart-felt. In fact, I think the emotion that Lloyd exhibits in the film is far superior to the rather wooden appearance he later made in Star Wars as young Anakin. Caviezel also does a great job as Jim McCormick, the father and husband who finds himself thrown into situations not necessarily of his choosing.
The cinematography definitely conceals the low-budget nature of the film. Filmed in the "where it really happened" location of Madison, Indiana, "Madison" definitely shows off this visual gem on the Ohio River as well as its surrounding country side and wide vistas of the river valley.
The film was shot and then set on a shelf for about five years. I was tickled to see that it at least was allowed distribution to the general public via DVD.
This film will fill an evening of family entertainment and allow you to see a fine performance from two actors before they went on to add their talents to two block busters: The Passion, and The Phantom Menace.
OK, part two... This is for the fans of the sport featured in this film that have been critical of the way things are portrayed in the movie. Two words: Lighten Up. I've been a sporadic fan of the Hydros, my in-laws are from the Madison area, and I had the fortune to be at the 1971 Madison "Gold Cup" race (granted I was seven at the time) and remember the hoopla surrounding the race (I also still have my admission badge). Despite all of the carping about the dramatic license taken with the story line, the fact remains that the core of the film is true. People looking for a documentary on the Miss Madison of 1971 should look elsewhere.
This film is hardly the first non-fiction related sports event that has been "re-worked" for the big screen. Take a look at any informed fan's review of their favorite past-time as presented in the cinema and you'll find plenty of the same: "XYZ batted left-handed, but was a 'righty' in the film", "They didn't really play XYZ in the final game", "They got the score wrong", "The fuel those race cars use burns flameless", "They spliced footage from different locations together during the scenes of the game", "They didn't use that type of equipment back then", etc., etc., etc. Here's a newsflash people: Movie-goers that aren't passionate about your favorite sport don't care. That's right, read that again... "They don't care." They want good "entertainment". Sure it's nice if all the facts are dramatic enough to make it to the screen, but don't be surprised if you see a "blow-out" turned into a "nail-biter", or a plot twist or two thrown in for effect. Don't get all bent out of shape and let it ruin your enjoyment of the film. People aren't going to think "Madison" is a fraud if they learn, among other things, that a P-51 was never parked in the courthouse square in Columbus in 1971. Nor to they care what the APBA calendar looked like that year.
At least the plot and acting in "Madison" are great. My number one sports passion is open-wheel Champcar racing and when "Driven" came out, not only was the film full of technical inaccuracies and impossibilities, the plot and acting stunk. Now THAT was an embarrassment to that form of racing! Finally, considering that Jim McCormick's son, his widow, and many others were more than happy with the treatment that "Madison" gave to the U-6 of 1971. If they are OK with it, then why can't you be too? If nothing else, it gives people a peak into the world of something they might never have heard of before: unlimited hydroplane racing. It might actually be good for the sport
For example, I now have a pretty good idea where I'll be come next 4th of July weekend. Sitting on the banks of the Ohio, eating one of my mother in-law's ham salad sandwiches, while watching the hydros pass under the Madison-Milton bridge sounds pretty good right now!