Radio Flyer (1992)

Michael overhears his two sons arguing because his older one broke his promise to share his toys with the little one. Michael thinks that promises are not to be taken lightly and decides to tell them about his childhood which was filled with broken promises and lots of sorrow. He tells them about his abusive stepfather and how he and his little brother tried to cope with it by filling their lives with magic, monsters and the wish to fly.




Full Plot:
The heartbreaking drama “Radio Flyer” from 1992 begins at a small airport close to a suburban neighborhood. Michael’s two sons sit close to a landing strip and argue as the older kid broke his promise to share his toys with the little one. Michael overhears the argument and decides to tell the boys a story to illustrate the importance of a promise.

He starts with the story of Fisher, the little boy who wanted to fly with his bike. Despite the warnings of his friends, that it is a very dangerous endeavor, Fisher jumped on his bike and rode down the steep hill, before getting onto the low roof of a barn, which acted as a ramp. Fisher flew into the air and got thrown against a tree, before hitting the ground. He twisted his leg, but couldn’t be any more proud, because he managed to fly after all. His friends cheered and applauded Fisher, the boy who became a legend on that day.

Then Michael goes on to tell about his own childhood. When he was a little boy, their dad left their mom. He promised that he would come back, but he never did. After 3 months of waiting for him, Mary, his mom, decided to take her sons Michael and Bobby, as well as Shane, their German shepherd, and pack all their things into the car. She threw away her wedding ring and headed for California. She was in financial trouble and all she could feed her boys and the dog was peanut butter. After 1500 miles on the road, little Mike and Bobby have already forgotten about their dad, who was never around anyway.

At some point they passed a road sign advertising a close-by buffalo farm. The boys got excited and convinced Mary to check it out. When they got there, there was only one very lonely buffalo standing around, staring at them. It looked incredibly sad and even shed a tear. The family of three was touched and Mary said that this is what happens to someone who is all alone. They left and the caretaker of the place asked the boys to promise to take care of their mom. A promise, which they never broke.

After 22 jars of peanut butter and when their mom ran out of money, they finally made it to the apartment of an aunt they didn’t know they had. After a month of staying with her, Mary met a guy who she thought was the answer to her prayers – a man who wanted to be called “The King”. Ever since the two got together, she was finally becoming a happy woman.

For his birthday, Bobby received a Radio Flyer (a toy wagon), which became the boys most beloved object over the course of the next years. When the family visited an amusement park, Mike noticed that something in Bobby had changed. He got on a ride with miniature planes flying in a circle and stretched out his arms, pretending to fly, all while having a mentally distant look on his face. Mike realized that Bobby had a secret, but he didn’t know exactly what it could be at that point.

One day, the King and the boys went fishing. The King kept sipping on his beer, when suddenly the fishing line started dancing, indicating that a fish had bitten into the lure. Mike and Bobby got excited and try to pull the fish in, but the line broke and the fish escaped. The King got angry and slapped Bobby in the face, while going on about how the lure costed 5$. The boys were traumatized and just sat there in silence. They never told their mom about the incident.

Mary ended up marrying the King and together they moved to the suburbs in the summer of 1969. Mary was hyperventilating with happiness that day, unknowing about what has happened and what was about to come.

Their house used to belong to a family with two boys at around the same age as Mike and Bobby, so the kids who lived in their neighborhood felt that they kicked their former friends out, making them their enemies before they could even introduce themselves.

When Mike and Bobby were exploring the garden, they found a turtle, who they called Sanson, and a loose board on the floor. Upon removing it, they found a money bank and decided to make this their secret hiding place they would never tell anyone about. As a child, Michael says, you still have a certain magic in life – animals can talk, monsters exist and you can fly.

Mike and Bobby have heard about Fisher, the legend, who managed to fly from the tall hill close to their neighborhood, 10 years before they moved there. Naturally, they decided to check it out. It was close to the local airport and they immediately recognized it from the stories. They vowed to do the same as him one day.

This night, Bobby had nightmares and Mike woke up to check on him. He discovered that his entire back was covered in bruises and Bobby admitted that the King had done this to him, but asked Mike not to tell mom anything as she was so happy at the moment.

Since then, the boys tried to leave the house as early as possible and came home as late as possible, exploring the surroundings. One day, they ran into the older kids from the neighborhood, lead by their biggest bully, Victor. They tried to push the boys around, but Shane fiercely defended them and scared the kids away.

When they came home, they were covered in dirt, so Mary made them take a bath. When she tried to undress Bobby, he got scared that she would see the bruises, so Mike distracted her by jumping into the bathtub. She didn’t have time for their silly games, so she let them take a bath in their own pace and she left for work.

After the bath, Mike and Bobby watched a horror movie on TV, when the King, clearly drunk once again, suddenly ran into the room, screaming and swearing at them. He forced Mike to leave the room, while he beat up Bobby. When Bobby finally was free to go, he climbed into bed, with tears streaming down his face and even more bruises on his back.

It was a very stormy that night, so much that Mike woke up from the noise. He got up and looked out the window into the garden. The shed went back and forth, before giant horns suddenly poked through the roof and giant buffalo emerged. He stared at Mike and came closer, then stuck his head through the window and started talking to Mike. He explained that the situation will become worse and it is up to Mike to help Bobby. Mike asked why it happens to Bobby but not him and how he can help him, if he can not tell their mom. The buffalo pointed out that it happens to Bobby, because he can not defend himself. He also advised him to keep his promise, but to just listen to Bobby. He had the answer already, Mike just had to help him find it.

Next day, they found an old house on a hill and a lawn mower engine inside. They left it be for now, as they didn’t know what to do with it yet. Then they found a spot marked “Fisher’s landing” and when they finally climbed the hill, the ended up on a spot so high that they could overview the entire surrounding area. They called it the “wishing spot”, as god must have heard them at a place that is so close to heaven. They made many wishes there, but mostly just one: For the King to stop hitting Bobby. They knew that it worked, as it he always stopped after they made a wish, it just never lasted very long.

On their way through their path of exploration, they found a golf course one day. People kept aiming for an island that was surrounded by water, but most of the balls landed in the water. The boys got the idea to fish all those balls out and sell them to the golfers for only a few cents. The money added up and they made 9 dollars at the end of the day. Ecstatic, they hid the money in their secret bank and looked for more ways to make money. They collected empty glass bottles from the trash and handed them in for a few more dollars in return. When Mike started imagining all the things he might want to spend the money on, Bobby suddenly went serious and asked Mike to promise to not spend it at all. Mike agreed as he felt that Bobby knew something that he didn’t.

Besides exploration, they spent their time reading about monsters in comic books. These monsters were fun and quite different from the truly frightening monster that they had to live with and couldn’t get rid off.

One evening, the brothers pulled out a Ouija board and asked whether Bigfoot was real. The planchette started to move by itself and pointed towards the window. The boys jumped up and ran to the window. After they pulled up the blinds, they could see a hairy monster with sharp teeth staring at them. They screamed, but it was just Shane who got lonely and wanted to see what they were up to.

In one of their comic books, they found an ad for an anti-monster potion, which the board told the will work, so they ordered it. When they saw the mail man outside carrying their package, they ran out, but saw that all their stuff has been scattered around the front yard by the King. The mail man handed them the package and they tried to pick up the things as fast as possible, so that their mom wouldn’t notice. Unfortunately for them, the kids from around the neighborhood saw the mess and immediately came over to taunt them. They laughed and pushed the boys around until the sheriff drove by and told them to leave them alone. The sheriff suspected that the family had a problem with domestic violence and asked whether the boys needed help, but they kept their stepfather’s abuse behavior a secret.

The boys cleaned up the mess and gathered the ingredients for the anti-monster potion. They ended up making a quite disgusting soup and put it on the stove, with the heat turned up. They went to watch TV and forgot about the concoction until the whistling steam escaping from the trembling pot reminded them. Unfortunately, they noticed too late and the pot exploded, causing the soup to spread all over the kitchen, resulting in an incredible mess. The two immediately got scared that the King will come home, so they scraped some of the anti-monster potion into a jar for protection. They washed the kitchen as well as they could and hid the cord, that the King used to beat Bobby with, in the oven. They ran outside before the King could catch them and went to the wishing spot, wishing the he would never find out – and he never did.

One day, the mean kids suddenly approached Mike and asked him to join them for a football match, because they were missing a player. Bobby didn’t want Mike to go, but he had hope that they wanted to finally give him a chance, so he left Bobby and Shane behind alone. Once Mike left, the King came home and Bobby hid in the shed. The King grabbed a beer as always and then turned on the oven, causing dark smoke to come out of it. When he looked inside, he found the cord, grabbed it and found Bobby in the shed, who was shaking with fear.

Meanwhile, Mike had to experience another disappointed as it turned out that the kids just wanted to lure him away from Bobby and Shane to beat him up. Mike managed to kick Victor in the crotch, impressing the others. He took a bike and sped off. When he arrived back home, the garden was a mess. He realized that the King had one of his violent outbursts and vowed to never leave Bobby alone again.

This time, it was so bad, that Bobby ended up in the hospital and keeping it secret from their mom was not possible anymore. She and Mike went to visit him and found his face badly bruised. Mary promised that something like this will never happen again, because the King went to jail. Bobby said that it’s going to be okay and asked his mom to leave him and Mike alone. Bobby then asked Mike whether they have found their hiding place. He was relieved to hear that they didn’t and promised that it won’t be long now. What he meant with that, he couldn’t tell Mike yet.

After the King was send to jail, life drastically improved for the boys. Unfortunately, it didn’t stay like this for a long time. First, the King started to call their mother from jail, as she grew increasingly depressed and irritated. And finally, he showed up at their house again. Their mom promised that he would never come back, but here he was – with presents and flowers in his hands. He got out on temporary release to attend his mother’s funeral and decided to come by. He was crying and begging Mary to believe him that he had changed. He would never drink again, he loved the boys and especially her. It was the first time in their life that they heard a man cry and it might have been the same for their mother. Which is probably why she believed him, blinded by love that Mike and Bobby could not have understood back then.

One day at the cinema, Mike and Bobby watched two movies twelve times in a row and Mike saw that expression on Bobby’s face again. When he saw the characters in the movie fly, his mind escaped into a world far away, just like it did in the amusement park way back.

Click here to unfold the remaining story (SPOILER WARNING)

After this, the two finally hatched their great idea, an idea so great and dangerous that they were sure that no child attempted something like this before. They took their money, bought different machine parts from a junk dealer and got the lawn mower engine from the old hut on the hill. After many days of hard work, trial and error, they finally build an improvised plane out of the Radio Flyer.

Unfortunately, the King got released from jail two days earlier than they and their mother thought. When he got home, he noticed that his motorcycle was missing his side mirrors and so he immediately became angry again. He grabbed a beer, swore and shouted. Shane, who was the only one home with him, started barking.

This was the first day of school for Mike and Bobby, so they didn’t witness him coming home, but they both got a stomach ache and ran home, unsuspecting that the King was there. When they got home, they saw the glass door to the garden smeared with blood. They walked into the garden and saw Shane’s lifeless body close to the shed. The King spotted them and shouted that they should never touch his tools again.

Luckily, they noticed that Shane was still alive and decided that it is time to go to the wishing spot this very night. Mike wrote a letter to their mom saying where they have gone to and that Bobby will not be back. They put the letter on the table, got the Radio Flyer and left.

When they got to a gas station to fill up their plane, the employee immediately understood what they were up to and gave them advice on how to handle the flight. They got a glimpse of his name tag and realized that it is Fisher, the legend himself. Fisher limped away and wished them good luck.

The King found the letter before Mary could and immediately took off. When Mary came home, she discovered the letter and that the King was gone, as well as all the beer. She became upset and realized that the King had broken his promise that he would change and ran to the police station.

In the meantime, the boys had arrived on the hill and waited for the last plane to take off and clear the landing strip before Bobby could take off in the Radio Flyer. They were crying and told each other that they are going to miss each other. After the last plane was finally gone, Bobby, Shane and Sanson got into the Radio Flyer and Mike tried to remove the rock they have put under a wheel of the Radio Flyer to keep it from rolling off the hill too early. Before he could do that, the King showed up, screaming and swearing. Shane attacked him and Mike kicked the rock away. The Radio Flyer started rolling down the hill and hit the King, knocking him out. Mike ran after the Radio Flyer and managed to start the engine in the last second.

Bobby rolled down the hill, rolled onto the barn roof in a high speed and as he reached the top, he took off and flew! Mike watched him from the wishing spot as they kept contact over walkie-talkies. Soon, Mike lost sight of Bobby and the two said goodbye. The sheriff and Mary arrived at the scene. They spotted Mike, but couldn’t see Bobby anywhere. The sheriff arrested the King and Mary desperately tried to get out of Mike where Bobby is, but he just kept saying that he is gone and that it is going to be okay.

One day, her worries got laid to rest when Mike got his first post card from Bobby. He sent it from the buffalo farm and was doing great.

As time passed, Mike grew up and became a college student. In all these years, he got one postcard after the other as Bobby travelled all around the world and became the flyer he always wanted to be.

The story ends here, but all that Michael’s sons want to know is whether this is where they got Sanson from. Michael says yes and promises that he is telling the truth. He says that a promise is a big deal, as once you make it, it lasts forever.

Tom Hanks as adult Michael
Sean Baca as young Fisher
Elijah Wood as young Michael
Joseph Mazzello as Bobby
Lorraine Bracco as Mary
Garette Ratliff Henson as The King
Noah Verduzco as Victor
John Heard as Sheriff Daugherty
Robert Munic as older Fisher

Richard Donner

David M. Evans

Radio Flyer (1992) on IMDB

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