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click to enlarge Anthony Hopkins, as Burt Munro, retools his 1920 - Indian.
  • Anthony Hopkins, as Burt Munro, retools his 1920 Indian.

*The World's Fastest Indian (PG-13)

Tinseltown
Anthony Hopkins, as a randy, smart-mouthed old New Zealander determined to break the world's land speed record on his 1920 Indian Scout motorcycle, is as charming and heartwarming as a weekend in a cozy bed and breakfast. You'll walk away feeling as if you've had a nice piece of cake not too sweet, with a hint of spice, filling but not overly so.

This feel-good flick is based on the true story of Burt Munro who, in his late 60s, took his beloved antique bike to the Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah and gunned it to 201 mph, setting a record that still stands today for a vehicle of its type.

Hopkins' Burt is a daredevil of a different sort. He doesn't put much stock in the fact that he could die of a heart attack at any moment, or that a crash on the desert floor could rip his head off. He operates on the premise that if you wonder too long about the things you haven't done, you might just run out of time, so get your ass in gear. His bike is held together with old door hinges and plugged with corks from discarded brandy bottles.

Burt lives in a shed in a tiny New Zealand town where he beds down at night among his tools, and occasionally with one of the town ladies. (Hence the PG-13 rating; God forbid our children should know that older people actually enjoy physical companionship, or see a bare shoulder older than 25.)

He pees on his lemon tree to fertilize it and torches his gasoline-soaked lawn instead of mowing it, driving his neighbors to distraction, except for Tommy (Aaron Murphy), the boy next door, who hangs on Burt's every word.

The movie is part road trip: Burt's arrival in Los Angeles and trek to Utah, during which he meets other eccentrics who illustrate Roger Donaldson's contention that the world is full of good-hearted people. When he arrives at his destination, he's told he can't race because he didn't pre-register, but a fellow competitor takes up his cause. When he needs a shower, another good-hearted soul puts him up in a hotel room.

By the time he finally gets to run a time trial, Burt's the darling of the track, surrounded by a pack of fellow dreamers rooting him on. The euphoric climax of the film is tempered by Burt's return to New Zealand and a quiet reunion with Tommy.

It's not hard to guess how this film might have turned out with a lesser actor than Hopkins in the driver's seat. His measured performance renders Burt as real and solid as a tree stump. Though he looks and acts older than a man in his 60s, we're as charmed by his cloudy blue eyes and his kind sense of humor as all those he meets on his quest.

The World's Fastest Indian teeters on the edge of predictability and smarminess, but is pulled back on track again and again by Burt's smart mouth and unique perspective. It's a little longer than it needs to be, but will make a good afternoon outing for a family wanting to see a decent race flick with a good heart.

Kathryn Eastburn

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