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Bob Smithouser

Movie Review

Second chances. Teamwork. Faith. Discipline. Sobriety. Self-control. These and other life lessons make Hoosiers, the inspirational story of an Indiana high school basketball team, worth recruiting from the local video store.

The year is 1951. It’s harvest time in Hickory. Cool autumn breezes caress red-orange leaves as they scamper across the dirt roads of forgotten Americana. That’s when newly hired basketball coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) pulls into town for his last stop on the road to personal redemption.

While Dale is busy breaking and rebuilding his undisciplined team, the boys grow to respect him—but his stock within the community plummets due to his unorthodox style. He becomes even more unpopular when he tries to rehabilitate one boy’s alcoholic dad (Dennis Hopper) by making him an assistant coach. The team starts winning. Crusty attitudes soften. A happy ending is guaranteed before the final buzzer.

Hoosiers is almost perfect. There are a few mild profanities. On-court fisticuffs break out, but only in the context of players sticking up for each other. Most families will find these minor drawbacks worth navigating for the net benefits of an outstanding character study.

The film explores the folly of exalting athletes too highly, the danger of losing one’s temper, the error of valuing one member of a team more highly than another, the success in simply playing up to potential, the destructiveness of alcoholism and the strength of a father/son bond. Positive themes also include believing in people and taking a stand for what’s right—regardless of popular opinion. In a refreshingly affectionate portrayal of religious faith, the squad prays before games and shows respect for one player’s devout Christianity.

Experience terrific courtside drama with Hoosiers, a winner that scores big with very few fouls.

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Bob Smithouser