Who is Cru Jones? And why is this website called the Cru Jones Society?
Very simply, Cru Jones is the hero of one of my favorite movies of all time – the incomparable “Rad.”
You can call me E Dagger. Along with Lee S. Hart and Senor Limon (pronounced with a Spanish accent), we are the Cru Jones Society. We’re here hopefully to make you laugh, possibly to make you think, and ultimately to provide you with fodder to read while you waste time at work or to procrastinate writing that term paper you’ve put off for two months. You’ll learn plenty about us when reading our posts in the months to come, so I won’t waste time with extensive biographical information. What I will provide you is some context to help understand our name and our philosophy.
For those of you unfamiliar with the kid with dreams of conquering Helltrack, I’m not here to convince you of his greatness. Decide that for yourselves.
But understand: What Han Solo probably is to you, Cru Jones is to me.
Along with “Back to the Future” and “The Karate Kid,” “Rad” was THE movie of my youth. Growing up, my friends and I loved this movie with all of our hearts and souls. I had one friend who even tried to convince me that he had met the real Cru Jones and that he had seen the real Helltrack. Even though this seemed preposterous (even to my 8 year-old mind), there was always that small chance his claim was true, and I was a bit jealous.
We all wanted to be Cru Jones. He conquered the most diabolical BMX track ever conceived. He kept his integrity when faced with temptation and promises of fame and money. He stood up to his sourpuss mother. He listened to his gut and accomplished his dreams. And he did it with charm, style and a backflip that would make Hulk Hogan eat his heart out. See our logo.
The plot in a nutshell: The heavy hitters of the BMX world decide they need their very own “Super Bowl.” They choose a barely-even-on-the-map town in Alberta to host it. Cru and his lovable band of misfit friends deliver papers in the neighborhood and spend their free time getting chased through the lumberyard by a gruff but good-natured cop. When this massive bike race comes to town, dubbed Helltrack, the event’s president declares that a qualifying race will be held to allow any local youths a chance at competing on bike racing’s greatest stage. Cru has a chance.
He dazzles the professionals with eye-popping flatland routines and overcomes the odds to qualify for the big race. Along the way, he falls in love with the #1 amateur rider in the world, makes enemies with the sport’s top dog (played brilliantly by Olympic gymnast Bart Connor), and starts a successful business. As for the race… if you don’t know how it turns out, you obviously haven’t seen any 80s movies.
This is not the finest work of art ever captured on celluloid, which ought to be self-evident.
The reason I find “Rad” so charming is because unlike virtually every movie made today, it’s not in on its own joke. I read an article in Esquire recently that pre-emptively blamed “Shrek” for the downfall in children’s movies ten years from now. It argued that with all its winking, inside jokes and sarcasm, as well as the inevitable stylistic copycatting that will inevitably follow for years to come, kids will learn duplicity at an even quicker rate than they do now.
“Rad” presents its tale earnestly. It’s loaded with humor (this isn’t earnestness like an M. Night Shyamalan movie), but it’s not the winking “I’m too cool to be a straight shooter” type of humor. I’m still very much a product of the take nothing seriously generation, but a small part of me yearns for a return to sincerity in storytelling. And I yearn for very little.
“Rad” was also way ahead of its time. Not only did this movie glamorize the world of BMX ten years before Mat Hoffman and Dave Mirra tore it up at the first X-Games, “Rad” nailed product placement well before its current chic. USA Today, 7-11, Kix Cereal, Coca-Cola and a shitload of BMX companies (Including Mongoose bicycles – we’ll get to them in a second) all get primo airtime in this flick.
Mongoose of course earns bizarre glory as one of the only companies in the history of time to have a willing place in a movie where they’re painted as nothing more than ruthless, profit-mongering villains hell-bent on destroying the dreams of a small-town teenager.
I’ve never understood why Mongoose would agree to this type of product placement. In the movie, the company is clearly run by a duplicitous jerk who will stop at nothing to fatten his wallet no matter how many gregarious teenagers he has to ruin in the process. As a kid, my friends and I were so loyal to Cru that we all swore we would never buy Mongoose bikes.
I’m pretty sure this is the opposite of most of the traditional goals of product placement. To this day I want nothing to do with Mongoose Bicycles even though I a) Have no strong feelings either way about any other company that manufactures and sells bicycles and b) Am hard pressed to think of any company in any industry that I would reject so unequivocally. Clearly, this is a movie that had a pronounced impact on my view of the world.
It’s THE movie of my youth and therefore resides in one of the softest spots of my heart. Yet no matter how much I enjoy it, I still pick it apart like the desperate ravenous media vulture I’ve turned into over 25+ years of media viewing.
I enjoy “Rad” both cynically and sincerely rendering it unique among the thousands of movies I’ve digested over my lifetime. Movies almost always fall into only one of the two categories. I love “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Shawshank Redemption” sincerely. I enjoy “An Innocent Man” and “Cocoon: The Return” ironically. “Rad” somehow achieves artistic enjoyability in both categories – no easy feat.
And that’s the essence of the Cru Jones Society. We’re passionate about the things we love and hate, but we also keep enough intellectual detachment to comment on them fairly and humorously.
We’re cynical. We’re jaded. We’re damn funny. And we speak from the heart. And we’re all pretty much wide-eyed optimists at heart.
So that’s what you’ll get from us. Sometimes it’s a spoonful of salt. Sometimes we’re sweet as pie. But Senor Limon, Lee S. Hart and myself are never censored, always curious, and rarely at a loss for words.
We are Cru Jones – all grown up.
16 Mar 2008 E Dagger