Hoosiers

1986, Movie, PG, 114 mins

Review

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It should come as little surprise that this solid, sentimental movie about basketball is set in Indiana, where babies are given roundballs before they get rattles. Loosely based on the true story of the team from tiny Milan High School (164 students), which won the 1954 Indiana state championship, this uplifting film, set in 1951, follows Norman Dale (Gene Hackman), a big-time college coach who has fallen from grace, in his leadership of the Hickory, Indiana, high-school basketball team to victory. Jimmy (Maris Valanis), the town's most gifted player, is so disturbed by the death of the previous coach that he declines to join the team, but Norman refuses to pressure him into doing so, earning the reluctant respect of Myra Fleener (Barbara Hershey), the acting principal.

Norman also remains determined to run the team his way, despite the animosity of the townspeople, who in the past have felt free to offer advice. With the expert help of Shooter (Dennis Hopper, in an Oscar-nominated performance that is one of the finest of his career), the alcoholic father of one of the players, Norman perseveres, and Jimmy decides to play after all.

Bursting with emotion and full of exhilarating game action, HOOSIERS captures the ambience of small-town Indiana basketball. David Anspaugh's direction is assured, Fred Murphy's cinematography and Jerry Goldsmith's score masterful, and the performances uniformly strong. However, the film clearly functions as wish-fulfillment for the kind of people who are nostalgic about all-white basketball, leaving a nasty aftertaste. leave a comment

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