An unqualified teacher finds himself saddled with coaching duties after a small group of high school seniors form a wrestling team in a last ditch effort to end a 9-year losing streak against a rival school.
Ed Branish, a snooty English teacher who finds his situation at Mingo Junction High School far beneath him and barely tolerable, flaunts his air of superiority over all (including his supportive wife) by frequently spouting platitudes from literary masters to validate his often contemptuous viewpoint. His habit of having as little to do with his school as possible finally gets the better of him when his light schedule makes him the only staff member available to supervise the newly formed wrestling team. Cornered, he lashes out at the first student to cross his path - Nick Kilvitus, a reserved 185 lbs. senior who's embarrassed by his near-poverty social status and who's also missed a lot of classes lately. No one realizes Nick's been filling in for his alcoholic father at a steel mill (hauling I-beams) when his dad's too drunk to show up (which is all too often, and which also keeps Nick busy at night fishing his embittered father out of bars - to be carried home (Fireman's Carry ... Written by
This was the first Disney-released film to receive a "PG" rating in the United States, five years before they launched Touchstone Pictures to expand into the "adult" market. The company's name never appeared on this title though: it was an independent production released through Disney-owned Buena Vista Distribution company. See more »
[as Jill and Ed witness Nick manhandle two bullies]
I think you just found your 185-pounder.
No! Oh. Oh, that's great. "Hi, I won't let you graduate but d'you want to join my wrestling team?"
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I do not like sports movies. Let me repeat that: I DO NOT LIKE sports movies. Still, there are a handful of them I highly recommend and this is one of them. It's a well crafted, touching story with solid, thoroughly believable acting by Herrmann and indeed most of the cast. It captures the flavor of small town schools and sports very well, and almost everyone will understand and sympathize with the characters' personal struggles, particularly the two protagonists as one endures the travails of the young and the other the realization that what he thought he wanted and what really matters aren't necessarily the same.
The cinematography captures the look and feel of a small town in rural America very well and the supporting cast gives a good portrayal of the kind of people you find in such towns and the kinds of kids you find in their schools--reliable, honest, subject to their own strongly held feelings, and absolutely focused on The Big Rival High School and the upcoming contest.
I highly recommend this movie. It's a pity it's so seldom seen on satellite; it's well worth watching.
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