Based on the unlikely career of elderly New Zealander Burt Munro, who, well into his 60s, set a new world land-speed record astride his scrappy 1920 v-twin Indian Scout motorcycle, this warm and entertaining film is a surefire solution to a perennial problem: Aren't there any theatrical movies for older folks? Though Burt (Anthony Hopkins) and his streamlined...read more
Based on the unlikely career of elderly New Zealander Burt Munro, who, well into his 60s, set a new world land-speed record astride his scrappy 1920 v-twin Indian Scout motorcycle, this warm and entertaining film is a surefire solution to a perennial problem: Aren't there any theatrical movies for older folks? Though Burt (Anthony Hopkins) and his streamlined Indian have already set a few speed records in the small coastal town of Invercargill, he's more a local eccentric than a local hero. Virtually living out of his cinder-block garage, Burt wakes each morning before dawn and, much to the consternation of his neighbors, begins fine-tuning the ingeniously customized Scout. With his incipient deafness, enlarged prostrate and hardening arteries, Burt's not in the best of health. But nothing can dissuade him from fulfilling a 25-year-old dream: to travel to the open salt flats of Bonneville, Utah, where record-breaking speed trials are held. To finance his trip to the U.S., Burt mortgages his house and works his passage across the Pacific as a galley cook aboard a small freighter; once in California, he checks into a cheap Hollywood motel that caters more to johns and their dates than to old men from Down Under. Nevertheless, Burt soon finds a valuable friend in Tina (Chris Williams), the cross-dressing front-desk clerk whom Burt first mistakes for a woman. (When Tina finally lets the cat out of the bag, Burt responds with a good-natured "Well, you're still a sweetheart.") He also befriends the Salvadoran used-car salesman who sells him the broken-down car he retools and drives to Utah, plus a Native American man whom he meets along the way and who offers Burt a miracle cure for prostrate woes: ground-up dog testicles. Each setback is met with a cheery Gump-ism and a "Bob's your uncle," but once in Utah Burt faces his greatest challenge yet: His failure to register in advance and the Indian's ad hoc condition might mean Burt won't be allowed to compete. Rarely do movies portray the elderly with such admiration and respect — Burt may be comically hard of hearing, but he's no adorable coot — but writer-director Roger Donaldson's labor of love is not just for oldsters; those climactic speed trials are downright exciting. With little scenery to chew on in the wide-open spaces of Utah — though you're reminded of Hopkins the hambone each time Burt lets rip a too long, too loud belly laugh — Hopkins resists his inclination to overplay and turns out one of his most endearing performances in years.
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