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A college basketball coach leaves the Navy in 1951 and becomes coach of an underdog Indiana high-school team.
One of the most rousingly enjoyable sports movies ever made, this small-town drama tells the story of the Hickory Huskers, an underdog basketball team from a tiny Indiana high school that makes it all the way to the state championship tournament. It's a familiar story, but sensitive direction and a splendid screenplay helped make this one of the best films of 1986, highlighted by the superb performances of Gene Hackman as the Huskers' coach, and Oscar nominee Dennis Hopper as the alcoholic father of one of the team's key players. As the drama unfolds we come to realize that many of the characters (including Barbara Hershey as a schoolteacher with whom Hackman falls in love) are recovering from disappointing setbacks, and this depth of character is what makes the otherwise conventional basketball story so richly rewarding. Like Rocky, Rudy, and Breaking Away, this is a quintessentially American movie about beating the odds and rising above one's own limitations. Just try to watch it without cheering! --Jeff Shannon
Top Customer Reviews
Gene Hackman portrays Coach Norman Dale, an outsider who comes to basketball-crazy Hickory, Indiana, to coach the high school team. Haunted by mistakes made in his past, Dale is eager for the second chance he has been given. Immediately, his no-nonsense, stress-the-fundamentals coaching philosophy puts him at odds with the town, yet Dale refuses to compromise his principles. He survives--barely--a petition for his ouster, and the rest of the movie warmly portrays the town of Hickory and its high school basketball team coming together, a team that makes a magical run through the Indiana State Tournament.
Barbara Hershey as Myra Fleener, Hickory's assistant principal, and Sheb Wooley as superintendent/principal Cletus--the man who hires Dale--are solid. Yet Dennis Hopper gives the best performance as Wilbur "Shooter" Flatch. Shooter, a former great player himself and father of one of the boys on Coach Dale's team, is the town drunk; despite his alcoholism, his knowledge of the game is immense, and Dale enlists his aid. The reformation of this character--the feeling and depth that Hopper gives this role--is exceptional.
Director David Anspaugh gives us a sensational "feel good" movie, augmented by Jerry Goldsmith's powerful musical score. HOOSIERS tells a beautiful story, so magical in its depiction you'll be cheering from your chair. Highly recommended.
So, small wonder that the movie Hoosiers is a staple in every Indiana video collection.
This is your classic David vs. Goliath tale based on a true story that's at the core of Indiana basketball mythology - the magic year back in the early 1950s (can't remember the exact season) in which tiny Milan (pronounced MILE-un, not like the city in Italy) in southern Indiana went all the way to the Indiana State High School Basketball Finals and emerged state champ.
I grew up in small town Indiana in the '50s. The characters, the places, the fervor surrounding the local basketball team are instantly recognizable and dead-on. These are my people and my places and the filmmakers got it exactly right.
The opening scenes showing Gene Hackman driving through the Indiana countryside probably don't mean much to folks from outside Indiana and the midwest, but they almost bring a tear to my eye.
As a side note, there's a little white country church where Hackman pauses to get his bearings. It stood at a crossroads in Boone County just northwest of Indianapolis. It was one of several churches that went up in flames in the late 1990s at the hands of a church arsonist. It's part of the local lore.
As far as the characters go, Hackman did a credible job, but the real star of this film is Dennis Hopper. Barbara Hershey's character is an unwanted digression from the plot line and adds nothing of value to the film.
And how many people realize the heart attack-prone principal of Hickory High, Sheb Wooley, is the guy who had a hit in the late '50s with the novelty record "One-Eyed, One-Horned, Flying Purple People Eater?"
Also, for those with home theater sound systems, the Dolby Surround Sound on the DVD is spectacular. The stereo imaging really makes the picture come alive.
If you like small town stories where the underdog triumphs, this is your kind of movie. You don't have to be from Indiana to love Hoosiers.