Hoosiers (1986)

reviewed by
John Carroll


Hoosiers, starring Gene Hackman, Dennis Hopper and Barbara Hershey. Directed by David Anspaugh. 1986.

Reviewed by John Carroll.

Whether good or bad, sport films always used to generate big box office buzz. Historic sports films, like Rocky, seem to touch everyone and become tremendously popular. However, sports films have become a sort of endangered species with such big films as For Love of the Game and Mystery, Alaska not performing up to par at the box office. However, the sporting film genre can always be relived through classics, and if you are in search of a classic, please rent Hoosiers as soon as possible.

For any sports movie to be a tremendous success, it needs to appeal to a wide range of people. A film like Rocky would have never been such a huge success had it only appealed to boxing fans. Hoosiers follows the same path, playing more on your emotions than your fundamental knowledge of basketball.

The film has a very simple and basic premise. It tells the tale of a small Indiana basketball team that goes to the State Finals. Throughout their journey, director David Anspaugh looks at some of the underlying subplots, including the past of Coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman), his relationship with Myra Fleener (Barbara Hershey) and how the coach tries to help his team, in particular, dealing with the fathers and cleaning up the drunk Wilbur Flatch (Dennis Hopper). The story has a simple David versus Goliath setup, but such intriguing subplots and a heart-tugging journey makes Hoosiers impossible to dislike.

Gene Hackman plays Coach Norman Dale, a former big-time college coach. At first, the reason for Dale coaching at such a small high school is irrevelent, but this story develops as the story progresses. In fact, the only place where Hackman fails is in his love story with Barbara Hershey. As some films tend to do, Anspaugh tries to cram a romantic plot into Hoosiers, but fortunately, it only serves as a minor distraction.

Aside from Hackman, Barbara Hershey and Dennis Hopper have the other lead roles. Hershey plays the guardian of the town's star player, and also evolves as the romantic interest of Norman Dale. She gives an adequate performance, but considering the terrific talent surrounding her, she rarely shines as much as she could have. Dennis Hopper, on the other hand, gives a tremendous performance, undoubtedly the best of the film. He plays the drunken father of one of the players, and is given a chance to put his basketball knowledge to good use with Coach Norman Dale. Hopper portrays what Hoosiers is all about. He is given a chance to shine, fails, but in a way, succeeds as we see him bounce back and tighten his ties with his formerly estranged son.

The supporting cast, aside from Hershey and Hopper, consists of the basketball players and their fathers. The players are on screen for a long time, but do not have many lines. This actually serves to help Hoosiers. It is always a risk to give too many lines to young and unexperienced actors, and the basketball team is able to convey their message through their actions on and off the court rather than through words, which makes Hoosiers all the better.

The journey of this team progresses without a hitch, and going into sports films, most viewers can guess the ending. You will watch Hoosiers with this same attitude, yet, when the final game is taking place, the audience will continually find themselves questioning who will win the game. This is a true testament to a sports films and stands out for why Hoosiers is one of the greatest sports films to ever hit the big screen.

In the end, the predictability and sappiness can be put aside to take a clear look at what Hoosiers truly is: not a basketball film, but a film that makes us look at what people can become despite the mistakes they make in life, and that is the true message of Hoosiers.

Final Verdict: B+ The Movie Page- http://moviepage.hypermart.net/ Reviews, Previews, News and So Much More!


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