Madison, named after the down-at-heel Indiana town on the Ohio River where a famous sports upset took place over three decades ago, happens to be about hydroplane racing, a competition of particular interest to spectators who live near water and enjoy consulting stopwatches. But the movie might just as well be about hockey, or darts: In dramatizing how pilot Jim McCormick and the community-owned race boat called the Miss Madison came to beat much fancier, better-funded competitors and take the 1971 Gold Cup while the eyes of ABC’s Wide World of Sports watched, director and co-writer William Bindley engages every move in the underdog playbook, including, but not limited to, the time the good citizens of Bedford Falls chipped in to make up George Bailey’s shortfall in It’s a Wonderful Life.
For emphasis, Jim Caviezel plays McCormick, presaging the beatitude he would later bring to The Passion of the Christ (Madison has been on the shelf since 2001) by imbuing the fellow with the radiance of a penitent, or at least of a Bruce Springsteen American, true to his hometown. The story is narrated in flashback by McCormick’s kid (Jake Lloyd), who may or may not have time-traveled from the 1930s. An old white geezer and the town’s resident old black geezer sit on a bench and kibbitz like Muppets Statler and Waldorf. The music swells on cue with patriotic harmonies. And the head nods, narcotized by uplift.