There’s no moment during which the true-life Little Codger That Could tale The World’s Fastest Indian doesn’t drip with unabashedly calculated schmaltz. Crazy ol’ Kiwi coot Burt Munro (Anthony Hopkins) lives in a New Zealand workshed tinkering away on his 1920 Indian Scout motorcycle, a vintage mechanical steed that looks like a red rocket, features no brakes, and has been constructed from all types of spare parts. Burt is a ragamuffin eccentric reprimanded by his neighbor for not mowing his overgrown lawn, mocked by young ruffian bikers for being old and foolish, and condescended to by a local banker upon applying for a mortgage. But, although burdened by a bad ticker and faulty hearing, he fights financial and health-related hurdles on his long-dreamed-of journey to Utah’s famed Bonneville Speedway to try and break the land speed record. Encountering an assortment of uniformly altruistic people throughout his trip (including a kind cross-dresser, a friendly used car salesman, and a Native American with a distasteful cure for Burt’s urination problems), Burt reveals himself to be a sagacious philosopher prone to chastise smokers and utter faux-profundities like “I always figured a man is like a blade of grass” and “I guess the reward is in the doing of it,” and Hopkins lays on the grandfatherly charm with shameless abandon. Writer-director Roger Donaldson, meanwhile, pushes every button in the manipulative filmmaking book, from Burt’s tender relationship with his neighbors’ admiring young son to his sexual dalliances with two women as well as to a variety of phony obstacles in his path (a rattlesnake attack, car crash, callous race administrators, and so on), all of which are underlined with a swelling orchestral score. To its credit, the film’s sappy spirit is frank and proud. Though in the final tally, The World’s Fastest Indian, beset by dramatic crudity and an overbearing fairy-tale tone, nonetheless never surpasses being a glorified Sunday night movie-of-the-week.
- Roger Donaldson
- Roger Donaldson
- Anthony Hopkins, Lana Antonova, Juliana Bellinger, Chris Bruno, Martha Carter, Jessica Cauffiel, Wesley Dowdell, Phoebe Falconer, Christopher Lawford, Aaron Murphy, Annie Whittle
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