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critics consensus

Overlaying its whimsical concept onto a gritty story of domestic abuse, Radio Flyer is a family film that is too harrowing for children and too saccharine for their parents. Read critic reviews

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Movie Info

When their parents divorce, brothers Mike (Elijah Wood) and Bobby (Joseph Mazzello) move to a California suburb with their mother, Mary (Lorraine Bracco). Soon after, she remarries a man (Adam Baldwin) who insists on being called "the King" and who beats young Bobby when Mary isn't around. The boys try to escape their harsh home life through fantasy, most of it centered on their Radio Flyer wagon. Inspired by the legend of another neighborhood boy, they hope to make it fly.

Cast & Crew

Critic Reviews for Radio Flyer

All Critics (39) | Top Critics (15) | Fresh (13) | Rotten (26)

  • 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.

    May 20, 2013 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • Donner and Evans can't find a way to extricate themselves from the impossible structure they have erected. They remain locked into the odd combination of the dreamy and the dreadful that is entirely of their own devising.

    May 20, 2013 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • A very odd, expensive, ambitious failure that tries hard to achieve the Spielberg touch but succeeds only in reminding you of how few filmmakers can successfully lay claim to his territory.

    May 20, 2013 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • Radio Flyer is a well-meaning failure, a muddled fantasy about child abuse that ponderously attempts to combine the grace of legend with the earnestness of a public-service announcement.

    May 20, 2013 | Rating: 1.5/5 | Full Review…
  • A movie is not a public-service announcement, and a movie that tries to squeak by on intentions doesn't generally doesn't get very far. Viewed from any normal perspective, Radio Flyer never takes off.

    May 20, 2013 | Rating: 1/5 | Full Review…
  • A queasy combination of whimsy and child abuse.

    May 20, 2013 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Radio Flyer

  • Dec 22, 2010
    Sweet, sappy and predictable.
    Thomas J Super Reviewer
  • Nov 19, 2009
    A powerful story about brothers. It has great performances from Elijah Wood and Joseph Mazzello. It is a very brave film and doesn't shy away from risque topics. In fact, the subject matter is quite mature and unlike the majority of kids movies.
    Conner R Super Reviewer
  • Dec 25, 2008
    <i>"Powered by imagination."</i> A father recounts a dark period of his childhood when he and his little brother lived in the suburbs. <center><font size=+2 face="Century Schoolbook"><b><u>REVIEW</u></b></font></center> Not much material nearly grounds "Radio Flyer" pretty quick, but in the end the film is somewhat enjoyable and almost becomes one of the biggest surprises of the 1990s. Tom Hanks tells his two young sons about a dark time when he (Elijah Wood in the flashbacks) and younger brother Joseph Mazzello moved to the suburbs in California with mother Lorraine Bracco. Almost immediately she meets trouble-maker Adam Baldwin (his face barely seen throughout the film) and marries him. It is crystal clear that Baldwin is a child abuser, always choosing Mazzello as his target. A plan develops very quickly by the two youngsters to turn Mazzello's new wagon into a flying machine so he can get away from Baldwin's abuse. The film has many holes in it, but it still remains interesting nonetheless. Co-directors Richard Donner and David M. Evans almost turn the movie into a whimsical fantasy and I am not sure that was a good thing. It also seems that a lot of trouble went into Wood and Mazzello's plan when it would have been so much easier to go to their mother or local police officer John Heard and explain the situation. The film-makers wanted to show the movie through a child's point-of-view ala "E.T.---The Extra-Terrestrial", but a truly gifted director like Steven Spielberg is one of the few people that could pull that off successfully. "Radio Flyer" is above average and still pretty good in spite of numerous shortcomings. Ben Johnson adds an endearing cameo and really should have had a little more airtime.
    Lorenzo v Super Reviewer
  • Jan 11, 2008
    Two brothers deal with an alcoholic stepfather who beats the youngest. They plot for his escape by building an airplane out of his radio flyer wagon.
    Ida K Super Reviewer

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