I’m a veteran of bad movies. While a lot of these movies are things I’ve had to search out and find on my own as an adult, there are some that I actually went and saw as a kid in the theater. I saw Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann when I was 5 years old… Talk about scarring a kid for life.
The Plot is simple, a famous motorcross rider back in the 80’s when motorcross and endurance riders weren’t household names and were pretty much relegated to riding around in the sticks accidentally rides his dirtbike onto a experimental testing ground. Scientists are using this land to experiment with time travel and they send a pod with a monkey back in the past about a hundred years. Lyle (Fred Ward, the dirtbike rider) unknowingly rides away before they have time to transport the pod and the monkey back, and now he’s stuck 105 years ago riding around on a dirtbike when people in the 1880’s hadn’t even seen a car yet, hell – they’ve never even seen a combustion engine! So now he’s riding around in the countryside on his dirtbike that seemingly has unlimited gas, and basically anyone who sees the bike is either scared to death of it (literally, a dude dies when he sees it), or they want the bike for their own. The rest of the movie is Lyle riding away from the bad guys (including Peter Coyote as the main baddie), chasing around the bad guys, or trying to get his bike back. Oh, and he has sex with his long lost grandma. Simple, right?
Along the way, Lyle has to use some of the conveniences of modern man. One of the best examples of this is his motorcycle helmet that is equipped with binocular vision, and even some infrared stuff too. Hey, are you getting tired? How about you have one of his convenient “power bars” out of his vest? If these weren’t impressive, you should be impressed with his awesome red jumpsuit that he wears throughout the film. One thing is guaranteed, you’re sure as hell not gonna miss him riding through the desert.
Now, I remember Timerider being a lot worse as a 5 year old. 25+ years later and it’s still a little boring, but at least I could figure out what was going on. Some scenes are played for laughs, and are mostly hokey, but at least they were trying. Fred Ward does an entertaining job as usual, but it just doesn’t seem like he has all that much to work with. Also, when Lyle is transported to the past they try to use a lot of scientific mumbo jumbo to try to make it sound like they know what they’re talking about but they pretty much abandon the search for him until the very ending. When you get to the end, it feels like they really didn’t know where to take the story so they throw in a totally absurd rescue scene to abruptly tie up some loose ends and get the hell out of there. One thing Timerider does have going for it, however, is one of the worst actor to stunt men transitions I’ve ever seen. And if you do see Timerider, be prepared for a lot of first person riding scenes.
I think the moral of this story is that sometimes when you see a movie as a 5 year old and you think it’s boring, maybe you should trust your instincts and avoid it as an adult. A lot of times you probably didn’t really understand what you were watching, but every once in a while your kindergarten assessment will be spot on. Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann gets 2 color coordinated riding suits out of 5.