Cole Trickle is a race car driver you just wants to win. Just when he figures everything out he gets in a terrible wreck and finds himself fighting for his job against a young upstart trying to take his place. Add in a new love interest and things are getting complicated. Can he win the big race (and get the girl) before it’s too late? Find out in… Days of Thunder.
How?! Cole Trickle is a race car driver with a lot of promise. Unfortunately he just can’t listen to advice (or even really understand the sport of NASCAR) and keeps burning out his cars by pushing too hard. After his pit chief Harry Hogge puts him through some training, Cole becomes the darling of NASCAR and a big time rivalry with hot shot racer Rowdy Burns starts up. This culminates in a contentious race where both Rowdy and Cole are seriously injured in a crash. As Cole recovers, he develops a romantic relationship with his neurosurgeon Dr. Claire Lewicki and patches things up with Rowdy as they become super best friends forever. But all is not well on the race track as Russ Wheeler, a young upstart who has taken over Cole’s car after the crash, is making waves. Instead of giving Cole his car back after he recovers, the owner expands to two cars and a bitter rivalry between Cole and Russ develops. This eventually results in Cole being let go by the team. However, Rowdy needs brain surgery and to pay for it he needs Cole to drive his car in the Daytona 500. What luck! With a new team assembled, a little help from his old team, and some fancy moves on the racetrack, Cole and Russ find themselves neck and neck at the finish line. It looks like Russ has the whole thing wrapped up, but Cole tricks Russ by switching up his patented slingshot move at the finish and wins Daytona and everyone is super excited and Claire is like hooray (even though she’s like a way more impressive brain surgeon) and it’s great. THE END.
Why?! Fame and fortune I think. Although Cole also has all kinds of other stuff that factor into his passion for driving that I don’t totally remember. I know that part of the attraction to NASCAR was that the cars are the same so that it’s all about dem skillz. And boy howdy does he have the skillz. I mean, I think that’s it. He wants to win Daytona… it’s not complicated.
Who?! Obviously there are some cameos in this guy. Richard Petty and Rusty Wallace are a couple. Sometimes I even discover a new entry for these categories and this is an interesting case of a “based on a true story” that really isn’t (but kind of is in a winking way). Cole Trickle is mostly based on Tim Richmond, who was a larger than life driver with a tragic story. They made a 30 for 30 about him. A lot of the events from the film are anecdotal about a variety of drivers. So almost based on actual people… but it’s not.
What?! The whole thing is kinda like an advertisement for NASCAR. Wouldn’t be surprised if NASCAR recruiters set up shop outside the cineplex to rope unsuspecting teens into NASCAR boot camp. And of course with NASCAR comes Mello Yello racecars and with Mello Yello racecars follows the inevitable sex scene featuring Sweet’N Low. I even think I remember that on the SATs back in the day. Autumn:Winter::Mello Yello Racecar:________. The answer was obviously Sweet’N Low Sex Scene. I believe the only question in history where everyone who took the test got it right.
Where?! In my mind this is a Florida film. Not just because that’s where the climactic race of the film takes place, but really because that’s where Cole recovers with Claire. So in my mind I see Cole driving around Florida and falling in love to the tune of a Daytona sunset (awww). On the other hand it’s a pretty good out-of-the-box road trip movie. It even has a scene where Cole is racing at the Dover International Speedway… let me say that again: there is a scene in this film in Dover… Delaware. B+.
When?! There are some clear dates here just in terms of the races that are explicitly names. At the very least you know that Cole was injured in July and then the climactic Dayton 500 would occur the following February. Really all the events seem to take place in just under a year, which seems odd. Like Cole is a rookie, becomes a rival with the top driver, is injured, starts another rivalry, gets fired from his team, and then wins the Daytona 500 on a different team in like… 10 months or so. Road trip through time as well. B+.
We’re on a bit of a streak of pretty good films. Or at least not entirely bad films. I found this one to be downright watchable and really not that bad (It’s not that bad! It’s not that bad!). Though, I can understand why it’s not in the Top Gun level of nostalgia at this point. The bromance is just not at the same level, the rival comes in too late to hit Iceman potential, the love interest is barely written, and fighter jets are cooler than race cars. But… but… it’s got all that adrenaline pumping fun and sports movie juice to get me through a sitting no prob. My biggest gripe is Nicole Kidman’s neurosurgeon character who falls in love with Cole (an immature race car driver who kinda sucks) for no apparent reason… she’s a beautiful neurosurgeon and she’s going to fall in love with one of her patients who has a death wish? That’s unlikely. Patrick?
‘Ello everyone! We get to dust off another borderline BMT and play a sweet NES game with Days of Thunder. Let’s go!
P’s View on the Preview – This film has always been kicking around as a sports film for BMT, a sub-genre we don’t often get to do. I don’t know why that is. I looked it up once, I think there are actually plenty of films to do (Mighty Ducks, D2: The Mighty Ducks, D3: The Mighty Ducks, to name three), so it is just something about them that we avoid. Probably because they don’t really fit into any genre. Is this an action film? A romance? Mighty Ducks I suppose is a comedy. The other notable things about this film is it is the only feature film Cruise has a writing credit on, and it is also where he met Nicole Kidman. Truly a landmark in film history. What were my expectations? Heart pounding NASCAR action! No seriously, I pretty much fully expected it to be an okay actioner, all the reviews just seem to complain about the romance and how inaccurate the film is about racing.
The Good – And an okay actioner is it! The final race in particular is quite good I thought, with enough vulnerability shown by Cruise to get me rooting for him to win, and enough action to keep you entertained. It didn’t really matter that you knew who was going to win. The whole story works quite well and I think the credit might lie with Cruise there. He knew that having some prodigy young hot shot as the lead wouldn’t work well and was willing to play a character who admitted he just didn’t know a thing about cars. You know if that was late-career Vin Diesel he’d be like “I can’t lose a race, it is in my contract. Fambly.” Best bit: Final race
The Bad – Definitely sags a bit in the middle when they are just mostly winning races / recovering from injuries and moping about. I could have used a bit more of the classic redemption arc of “we were rivals, and I hate you Cole Trickle … but goddamn if I respect you!” from Rooker. You can tell everything concerning racing is nonsense (albeit a necessary and forgivable flaw). I think the only unforgivable sin is that Duvall lives on a farm with a barn, but Tom Cruise never punches a big sack of hay while recovering from injury in there a la Youngblood. A travesty. Fatal flaw: Tom Cruise didn’t punch a big sack of hay … just joking, it is probably just the slowness of the middle of the film.
The BMT – We’ve watched quite a few racing films over the years, although mostly (outside of maybe only Driven?) they are about illegal street racing. This still, weirdly, isn’t the best BMT about sanctioned racing, that is surely Driven with Sly Stallone. It gets your blood pumping, though. I can definitely see myself settling in to watch just the final race if I saw it randomly on television. Also it is surprising just how much of a parody Talladega Nights is. Watching those two films back-to-back would be great fun … yeah I’m just going to pencil that in for some lazy Sunday in the future. Did it meet my expectations? Amazingly, it exceeded them. I think I expected it to be even more nonsensical than it was, but it does an okay job of balancing competition, rivalry, and the romance story, and ends up being pretty fun.
Roast-radamus – Two incredible Product Placements (What?) with the quote “ESPN … their coverage is excellent, you’d be surprised how much you can pick up” being used to explain Cole Trickle’s inherent abilities in stock car racing, and also Cole guzzling Budweiser throughout the film, and ultimately being sponsored by Mello Yello at the end of the film. A decent Setting as a Character (Where?) for North Carolina in particular, I think they ended up just bouncing back and forth between the two headquarter cities (Daytona and Charlotte) for NASCAR throughout the film. And I’m declaring it, this is a Super Secret Holiday Film (When?), because everyone knows the Daytona 500 (which bookends the film) always takes place on Presidents’ Day weekend, at least that was true in the 80s and 90s. Definitely closest to Good for me.
Sequel, Prequel, Remake – Prequel baby! You know when they throw out tantalizing nuggets like “my father owned my IndyCar team and was a fraud and bankrupted and embarrassed me so badly I had to move to NASCAR” in a film I just need to see that as a prequel story. And guess what? Tom Cruise is going to play that father! That’s right, it has been long enough that we recast Cole Trickle (easy, Timothée Chalamet) and Tom Cruise plays his own character’s father in the film. Pretty straightforward, I mean … they explained the whole concept in Days of Thunder. I think the key though is that the characters will be following NASCAR during the film (ESPN has great coverage) and will see Bretherton’s crash and Harry Hogge get drummed out of the series at the same time. Draw that connection. We also need an IndyCar rivalry to revive in the sequel (after Trickle triumphantly returns to IndyCar after the events of the original film), I’m going to call him … Kyle Frisk and he’s played by Jaden Smith. Days of Thunder: Grand Prix.
You Just Got Schooled – This is a two-fer! This film had several singles from its soundtrack album, most notably a cover of Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door by Guns N’ Roses which peaked at #2 on the UK charts, and Show Me Heaven by Maria McKee which spent four weeks at the top of the UK charts in 1990. Additionally, there was a PC and NES game also called Days of Thunder. I played the NES version and hoooooooo doggy, it is basically impossible. I’m not even joking, there is a race in the game which even the best runners say is impossible to win given the pitting mechanics. I played for an hour or two and started to get the hang of it to some degree, but you should at the very least watch a speed run just to see how insane the pitting mechanics are, you have to manually do them!
By the end of the movie tie-in cycle I think I’m going to end up playing every single type of game ever made, you have to love it.