by Natasha Theobald
I hadn't seen this movie for a long time. I decided to rent it again to see if I loved it, initially, because it was a good movie or if it was the hot guys playing hockey that gave me shivers. It doesn't really matter, because I watched it again, all these years later, with a silly grin slapped across my face. It turns out, I probably haven't grown up that much after all.Dean Youngblood (Rob Lowe at his prettiest) is a kid with talent and a dream. He yearns to leave life on the farm behind and to find success in the world of professional hockey. He worries, though, that, like his brother (Jim Youngs) before him, he will return home broken and beaten. Not only did his brother, Kelly, lose his chance at a career, he also lost an eye in the process. So, it is with some trepidation that Dean sets out to gain a spot in a Canadian league. He earns the spot over another, more brutal player, Racki (George Finn), getting his big shot and a big enemy, all at the same time.
"Holding their own on the ice."
Youngblood, after some initial hazing from teammates and the lady who runs their housing (Fionnula Flanagan), finds his stride and is able to use his talent to score goals and gain the trust and respect of his team. Briefly benched for fraternizing with the coach's daughter (Cynthia Gibb), Youngblood comes back just in time to see his mentor, Derek (Patrick Swayze) taken down on the ice by his own nemesis, Racki. Youngblood's first instinct is to quit, to go back home and shovel whatever farm stuff needs shoveling. It is only after a lecture from his brother about regretting what might have been and a lesson from his dad (Eric Nesterenko) about finding the courage to fight that he is able to return and make things right.
The story, while not completely unfamiliar, is given fresh energy on the strength of good dramatic moments well handled by able actors. I looked up director Peter Markle, and it seems he has been spending his time of late directing quality television dramas. He must truly have a feel for it, as moments that could easily have become maudlin if mishandled instead ring quite natural and true. In addition, there is a nice feeling for the camaraderie and good-natured prank-playing among the members of the team.
Solid and sturdy performances are given by all. Rob Lowe combines fresh-faced innocence with a spark and determination. He handles all areas of the film, from the athletics to the romance, with equal aplomb. Patrick Swayze plays cocky and vulnerable, funny, and stalwart. He seems to revel in the boys will be boys stuff, and the good-natured fun of it translates to the audience. Ed Lauter is the crusty yet strong of heart coach who had his time as a pro and misses the action just a bit. He is funny and strong and gives the refs a run for it. Also, look for a very young Keanu Reeves. You can't understand most of what he's saying, but he sure is cute.
For those with an interest in the relationships between fathers and sons, there are two different dynamics at work in this that are pretty fascinating. The first is with a father trying to protect his son from the pain that his brother suffered. He is earnest, with the kid's best interest at heart, and, when he comes around, he is supportive to the end. Second is the relationship between player and coach, complicated, of course, by the fact that the player is sleeping with the coach's high schooler, his only daughter. There is a nice moment of respect and reconciliation that seemed very sincere.To sum, you have comedy shenanigans with the guys on the team, drama created by Youngblood's conflict, and the action on the ice. Really, what more could you ask? Add to it music that tends to enhance rather than detract from the action (except for the cheesier 80s sounds at times -- but it was the 80s) and you have a solid movie with a not too graceless impact.
link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=7548&reviewer=317
originally posted: 07/14/03 21:24:21