Thank you so much for your patience, your prayers have been answered as my Top 50 Sports Movies of All Time is back! (Don’t worry – that was totally sarcastic.)
I’ve done five previously – links below – and they stick to a certain structure which is described in my original #50 that kicked off the list, The Mighty Ducks – click away here and check it out for the basic format. The ratings system remains basically the same except the 0 stars rating releases Kevin Cosgrove and is now represented by Mike Riley.
As always, we begin with a movie that didn’t qualify for the list. Categories into which these fall include, but are not limited to, subjects such as Near Miss, Not a Sport, Documentary, So Bad They’re Good, Great Performance by Person Playing Himself and Full On Riley Bad. Yes, I included Mike twice.
So there’s the intro, let’s kick this puppy off with:
FULL ON RILEY BAD FLICK: SLAP SHOT 2
Here is a quick version of the plot and yes, someone in the movie business actually greenlit this idea.
25 years after Slap Shot (which will be seen later way up the list), the Chiefs are still around but stinking, the Hanson Brothers are still playing, Stephen Baldwin is their player/coach and they get sold to some corporation which moves them to Nebraska and renames them the Super Chiefs. They find out they will tour and play all their games against a team of young studs called Omaha Icebreakers (why in the serious shit did we get stuck hosting this fictional debacle??) in a sort of hockey version of the Harlem Globetrotters with the Chiefs playing the part of the Washington Generals.
Of course, the Hansons get kicked off the team while the Chiefs are being the chumps, but in the end they decide to play real hockey again. They get the Hansons back, whoop some Icebreaker ass, get threatened with lawsuits, but find out the Hansons won the lottery and bought the team.
Let all that sink in a little.
I just picture some chaps-wearing dink with a bandana around his neck throwing this script down for producers to read and then theatrically taking pause before announcing – “Stephen Baldwin’s AVAILABLE.”
As Forrest Gump would say, that’s all I have to say about that. I just want you to be aware that things like this happen and it absolutely earned its 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. The director’s mother probably dick-flicked him for putting this disaster out in the world. By the way, I laid out the plot and gave you the ending because no one should ever have to watch this again.
Now on to:
It may not be the best sports movie ever made. Hell, it’s not even close to the best hockey movie ever made. But it’s got hockey action, fighting, nudity, drinking, cougar action, farming, Rob Lowe lip-pursing, Swayze, Keanu, That Guy Hall of Famer Ed Lauter, Chuck from Footloose, nut shaving, fake teeth, and greatest movie ending for an athlete in sports movie history. That last one alone secures Youngblood a spot on the list.
So here we go.
The movie opens with American junior hockey stud and New York farmboy, Dean Youngblood, being driven to a tryout for the Hamilton Mustangs, a Canadian major junior team looking to fill a roster spot before a playoff run. Dean is being driven by older brother Kelly and – recognize him?
Of course you do. That’s Ariel’s jagoff boyfriend, Chuck, the guy from Footloose who lost an 8 mph tractor game of chicken to Kevin Bacon. After that, his top movie credits on IMDB become things like Cyborg 2: Glass Shadow. Let’s move along.
It’s quickly apparent that Dean is not only the most talented guy In the tryout, but probably better than anyone on their team including Derek Sutton, played by Patrick Swayze, who expects to be picked 1st overall in the upcoming NHL draft. The only other guy making waves that day is a goon named Racki who thumps Youngblood to the ice after watching Dean put everyone in the spin cycle for an hour or so. Youngblood, looking quite miffed, hops to his feet and gives Racki his best stinkeye. Racki responds by grinning and uttering his iconic line, “You wanna go, pretty boy?”. And then beats the goat shit out of Youngblood.
At this point, you’d think the Hamilton coach would pay some local policeman to gun butt Racki into a coma and dump his body in the river for almost destroying the greatest discovery of his coaching career. Instead, he acts like having to pick between a potential 150 pts/year scorer and a sack of goon meat like Racki is an agonizing decision before grumpily going with the phenom.
So I’m afraid the tryout left me with some genuinely puzzling questions:
• 1) Has there ever been a whiter guy named Youngblood? I look more like a Muhammed-Qawi than Robe Lowe looks like a Youngblood.
• 2) Why is a dude who is obviously going to immediately be the best player in this league a complete mystery to everyone and having to show up for an open tryout? I know it’s only 1986 but scouting existed, right?
• 3) Is Ed Lauter’s character, Coach Murray Chadwick, officially the dumbest coach in hockey history when he seriously considers taking a 6 points/320 PIM a year brawler over an obviously crazy talent like Youngblood? (You know who else would have been pummeled to a bloody spot on the ice if forced to take on a top-line enforcer? Gretzky. You what Edmonton’s coach did? Hired Dave Semenko then Marty McSorley to beat senseless anyone who touched him. Murray should have signed Youngblood, signed Racki as his bodyguard, then dumped a barely used fourth-liner. Do that and Hamilton sweeps Thunder Bay in 4. I’m done now but I feel very strongly about this.)
• 4) Does Racki have a first name or is he Canadian McLovin’?
Anyway, Dean gets his face stitched up and is moved into a local boarding house run by a buxom, curvy 40-ish cougar named Miss McGill who likes to bring her boys tea at night and screw them silly. So she’s sort of the hockey version of Annie Savoy in Bull Durham except she talks waaay less and doesn’t handcuff herself to the “one player per season” rule.
Check that. Youngblood came out 2 years before Bull Durham, so Susan Sarandon’s Annie is actually the baseball version of Miss McGill!
Dean wanders around town on his own for awhile, runs into the coach’s cute daughter played by Cynthia Gibb, runs into the coach while palling around with his daughter and gets caught with the literary porn novel that was his first big-boy purchase living on his own. Since Coach Chadwick is one of those dads that hates anyone even looking at his baby girl, Youngblood is officially on the Shit List.
Since this is Canadian Junior hockey, hazing must occur. Actually, given what I’ve read over the years about hazing in the Canuck ranks, Youngblood got off pretty easy here:
• 1) He has his nuts shaved by soon-to-be best buddy, Derek, in full surgical attire
• 2) The boys take him out for a shot-drinking contest where Youngblood slams about 36 of them and the rest of his boys throw the shots over their shoulders. We meet Keanu Reeves here as the French-Canadien team goalie named Heaver. Yes, Keanu attempting a French accent is as glorious as it sounds. Also, there is practice early the next morning in which Coach Chadwick watches his new stud spend 2 hours dry-heaving and falling a lot. On a coach hate scale of 1-10, Youngblood’s running at about 27 now.
• 3) Just for the hell of it, Dean is tossed into hallway outside the locker room sporting nothing but a jock as coach’s cute daughter comes walking along. This wasn’t hazing, so much as an attempt to draw females to the movie by displaying naked Rob Lowe ass. Mission accomplished.
Finally, it’s time to play some hockey. After spending some time on the bench – because it’s much more important to punish one of your players for talking to your daughter than do everything possible to win hockey games – Dean Youngblood hits the ice. After a bit of a pissing match with Swayze, Youngblood and Sutton begin tearing it up on the ice and becoming buddies off of it.
While chatting, Sutton makes the devastatingly crucial error of telling Dean how all of his hockey dreams will come true when he’s selected #1 overall in the draft. If Youngblood knew anything about movies, he would have left Derek’s apartment to go wheelchair or coffin-shopping for him righ then.
Oh, somewhere in there, the coach’s daughter visits Dean’s apartment, so they can have some odd sex which entails:
• Pulling the mattress on the floor (squeaky bed)
• Heating the room to 96 degrees with a roaring fireplace blaze (sweaty naked bodies are good naked bodies)
• Having lots ‘n’ lots of rated R movie sex (awesome in 1985 when actual porn was a big VHS tape you had to hide from your parents)
• Snogging away while Miss McGill brings some tea to get a little piece of Dean for herself. Unfazed that Cynthis Gibb beat her to the punch, she sets the tea down for them and leaves. Miss McGill is fairly awesome and does not exist in real life.
• Drinking and then dumping ice water all over each other, the mattress and the floor (still baffled, why did they suddenly try to remake 9 ½ Weeks here?)
Ah well, I guess I wouldn’t give two shits about a wet mattress either after making the sign of the two-backed armadillo with Cynthia Gibb.
Enough setup, it’s time for the playoff finals against Thunder Bay (older Omaha Lancers fan appreciates this very much) and guess who they’ve added to the roster? That’s right, our good friend Racki! Sure, like he wasn’t coming back.
The game commences with lots of trash talk, cheap crap and a referee with very odd hair who doesn’t believe in penalties of any kind. He literally would be ok with nunchucks and pepper spray out there. In addition, Thunder Bay’s rink has yard fencing instead of glass around the rink and uses three 75-watt bulbs for lighting. But no matter, Youngblood and Sutton are still on fire. Naturally, Racki takes the first opportunity given him to go full Bertuzzi/McSorley on Derek Sutton’s ass. Helmet comes off, head hits ice and a promising NHL career is derailed.
With his former best player in a coma, Coach Chadwick begins preparing for the rest of the series. Dean is completely aghast that anyone could even think about playing, so when Chadwick gives him shit, he puckers his lips, strains to make his eyes tear up, screams some, quits the team & runs back home to the farm where the space/time continuum takes some odd turns.
It’s a given that he will have a change of heart, grow up, have a training montage and return to the team, but there’s just a few small problems (yep another list; Youngblood is chock full of deep thought):
• I’m thinking at most, MOST, maybe a week goes by. More like 3-5 days probably, I’d have to rewatch and see exactly how many games were played in his absence.
• So in the space of a week or less:
• 1) He appears to farm for about a month while simultaneously dedicating himself to full-on hockey practice, strength & conditioning and combat training (see below)
• 2) He learns technical boxing and heavy bag skills from his brother Kelly (Jim Youngs should have just stuck to movies with farming)
• 3) His dad played by former Chicago Blackhawks great Eric Nesterenko teaches him on-ice fighting skills and delivers his iconic line – “You can learn to punch in the barn but you gotta learn to survive on the ice.” (By the way, Nesterenko is the finest actor in this movie and he never acted before. Watch the scene with him and Rob Lowe where expresses regret about never helping him out before, but it was because of his fear of having another son hurt. Lowe is fine here, too. It’s seriously the best scene in the movie, totally out of place with everything else.)
• 4) He has what looks like a 3-4 week training montage.
• 5) He returns with his bench press doubled and fighting skills that would give Bob Probert pause.
So Dean comes strutting in for the final game but finds Coach Chadwick, himself a former brawler, unwilling to let him him in. Rob Lowe ominously drops his bag and stick and mumbles something about going through him. As we prepare for coach/player throwdown, a voice from the locker room says, “Let him in, coach.” Rob Lowe, in shock, realizes it’s Sutton and rushes in to find his friend –
-with his head completely wrapped like Wile E Coyote having fallen off a cliff after barreling through one of the Road Runner’s fake tunnels.
They said some stuff after that, but I was giggling and missed it.
Any-hoo, the puck drops and with the man-perm-gray-fro referee looking the other way as Racki continuously pummels and chips Youngblood non-stop, the game is on. Dean scores in the 2nd to tie the game at one, but Thunder Bay retakes the lead which they hold 2-1 with 10 seconds left. At this point, as Bill Simmons pointed out years ago, Dean Youngblood commences to having the greatest finish to a sports movie in the history of the genre. Read this FINAL list and try to find a better one:
• 1) Dean scores the tying goal with :10 left
• 2) With the score 2-2, he wins the ensuing faceoff, blows by everyone and is hooked from behind by Racki (inexplicably left in there by Thunder Bay’s asshole coach) with :03 to go. Bad Hair Ref stunningly calls a penalty shot.
• 3) Youngblood scores the game winner on the penalty shot for the hat trick. It’s Hamilton’s home ice and the deciding game of the championship but for some reason, no one throws hats.
• 4) Goons take ice for the final faceoff and ensuing brawl after the horn, but Youngblood refuses to come off
• 5) With 3 seconds left, refs drop the puck then proceed to stand by and watch a player stick fight between Racki and Youngblood, because of course they would. Youngblood must have also taken kendo and fencing lessons on the farm because he easily disarms Racki.
• 6) They switch to fisticuffs and Youngblood KO’s Racki. Training, baby.
• 7) Youngblood is seen truffle-snorting the coach’s daughter again at the rink as the credits roll
• The End
So – scored tying goal, scored winning goal for hat trick, won hockey stick sword fight, pummeled goon while giving up about 73 pounds, did nasty things (assumed) with coach’s daughter again.
The name…sorry, Mr.Swayze/Dalton…is Dean Youngblood.
Let’s score it:
Quality of Sports Scenes: Everyone is pretty athletic, they snuck a few then-active NHLer’s out there, Keanu actually played some college hockey goalie and even though Lowe had never skated before, he’s not half bad for an actor. It’s not Longest Yard quality talent but it ain’t that bad. Penalty point for Lowe acting like the puck had to settle and stop behind the line before he could celebrate.
Score: *** Pelini
Music: To be honest, I don’t really remember it. That’s not good but it’s not as bad as remembering it and finding it annoying
Score: ** Solich
Love Interest: Cynthia Gibb scores very well here. Even though we know how this will end, she does a great job of giving Dean shit early on. She drives the zamboni at the arena and consistently rocks the coveralls. She is the epitome of Girl Next Door cute AND nails the gratuitous sex scene. And she’s not afraid to rip into her overbearing dad during games. There’s not a perfect 5 yet, so –
Score: ****1/2 Devaney
Adrenalin/Goosebump Scenes: Lowe with Nesterenko as his dad causes some goosebumps and the final ending as described above but there’s an underlying goofiness to all of this that keeps it from ever becoming an adrenalin type of affair.
Score: ** Solich
Comedy: It’s interesting in an era where dickish, abusive and inappropriate behavior by dudes is rightfully becoming less funny. That being said, the intentional comedy here, like many other movies isn’t playing well over time. The hazing and getting Dean booze-wrecked isn’t quite as funny. The judgy stuff aside, there are some good laughs here.
Score: ***1/2 Pelini
Unintentional Comedy: Oh sweet Jeebus, a gold mine. Rob Lowe beating up Racki, Keanu Reeves being Frenchish, everything about Hamilton teammate Hewitt, Youngblood shopping for a porn novel, Thunder Bay’s fenced, unlit arena, Derek Sutton’s bandaged head, everything about Thunder Bay’s coach, Coach Chadwick’s destructive coaching philosophies, the Canadian major junior system’s scouting system missing out on American Gretzky so completely, Rob Lowe the farmer, etc etc. This is easy.
Score: ***** Osborne
The Training Montage: Decent mix of hockey training, farming, heavy bag and hockey fight work. It’s not Rocky heading up the museum stairs and it loses a point for trying to convince is it all happened in just a few days.
Score: **1/2 Solich
Rewatchability: I actually give it pretty high marks here. If it pops up on the tube or someone throws in the DVD, I’m always down. I just hope I don’t miss French Keanu saying, “She do it to me last year,” followed by Hewitt saying, “She do it to me last night.”
OVERALL: This actually appears on some people’s worst sports movie lists. These people are out of their damned minds.
Score: *** Pelini