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Blu-ray Review: Hoosiers

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Since I am not a games/fitness/etc. guy (not by a long shot) to begin with, I often find it extremely difficult for me to wrap my brain around the concept of why I’m supposed to be rooting for people in a motion picture when I’m confronted by a sports movie. I figure an actual game can go any one of the following two ways: someone wins, or it’s a tie. Simple logic, right? When it comes down to a movie about a determined group of males and/or females battling a rival team in order to win even the most minor of victories, I can almost always bet my bottom dollar that they’ll win. The real draw, therefore, must be in the presentation of the feature film itself.

The 1986 basketball flick Hoosiers is one of those rare titles in a long, long history of movies about one or more individuals participating in an athletic game in order to prove something to themselves or their community. In this case, the people in question not only establish both of the formers, but they also impress the entire world in the process. Based in part on the near-legendary Indiana state championship game of 1954, wherein the undersized Milan High School became true underdog heroes by defeating a much larger, better-organized rival team.

Of course, the real story here matters not: Hoosiers is a firm family drama about disgraced basketball coach Norman Dale (played to perfection by the great Gene Hackman), who arrives in a small, rural Indiana town with the hopes of whipping the local whippersnappers into shape with some truly professional training. Naturally, everyone from the parents of the students to the students themselves think he’s overdoing it — and do their best to oust him once he eliminates a cocky kid from the already puny parade of players. Throughout it all, however, one man believes in him: a person who, sadly, is also the town drunk — and who goes by the handle of “Scooter” (Dennis Hopper, who rightfully won an Oscar nomination for this one).

Sensing Scooter not only knows the game but also has a brain to boot (something that is not very easy to find in most small, rural towns, believe me), Norman hires him as his new assistant. Meanwhile, a local teacher (Barbara Hershey) confronts her feelings towards the new coach. Yes, it’s your average small town drama movie instilled with a great bit of sportsmen and sore losers alike added, but in this instance, writer Angelo Pizzo and director David Anspaugh up the ante. They take their viewers on a highly entertaining journey of feel-good-ery, a sizable feat that culminated in their low-budgeted dream project becoming one of the most popular films of ’86 — an achievement that still stands today, and which the duo tried to recreate in 1993 with the nowhere-near-as-grand Rudy.

Previously released on Blu-ray in 2007, Hoosiers has finally received a slightly better-looking (though not truly fantastic) transfer from the earlier “this format is still new, so please excuse us while we figure out what we’re doing and what it is you want” presentation, and with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack that is the same as issued before as best anyone can tell. The true reason to get this upgrade, however (if this is your cup of tea in the first place, that is), is the inclusion of the special features from the 2005 Special Edition DVD set, which consist of an audio commentary with Misters Pizzo and Anspaugh, deleted scenes, the featurette “Hoosier History: The Truth Behind the Legend,” the actual 1954 Milan vs. Muncie game that inspired this story, and the film’s original theatrical trailer.

Only the latter bonus item is presented here in HD, but there’s a pretty good chance fans of this one won’t mind too terribly much — especially considering this catalogue release is available for a more than reasonable price.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.