Regarded as a fantastic basketball movie by many and one of the finest sports movies ever by some, "Hoosiers" has won a lot of hearts. The picture takes place in a small town in Indiana, where the local basketball team has just been visited by Coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman), a former college coach looking to start over again and take a new generation to the state confrences.
The movie does go over some of the sports cliches that other pictures have put to use, but the performances are genuine and compelling, and that often overcomes the movie's faults. As one might expect, the kids aren't particularly disciplined at first, but after a while, they get into the swing of things and start winning games. He begins to help Shooter (Dennis Hopper, in a great performance), the town drunk and the father of one of his players, and find romance with a teacher at the school (Barbara Hershey), although the movie provides just enough of this subplot for it to not seem like an afterthought.
The picture shows the team getting over their differences, working with the coach and then working up to the expected big game. The performances are excellent though, and the characters feel realistic, instead of Hollywood "types" that are found in most movies of this genre. The picture also gets the small-town feel down quite nicely.
The performances are also first-rate, especially Hackman and Hopper. Hopper's performance as the alcoholic father is moving and emotional, while Hackman inhabits the role of the coach quite perfectly. Barbara Hershey makes a good deal out of a not-much role, as well. All of the players are good, and the supporting cast is quite fine, overall. Overall, it's not a film without some familiar elements, but it goes to the next level thanks to having a lot of heart.
VIDEO: "Hoosiers" is presented by MGM in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality is just fine - not great, but not bad. The picture has a somewhat dated, 80's look, and due to the cinematography (or the film stock), the picture seems a little soft throughout. The picture looks crisp and clean, but there's a hint of softness consistently apparent.
The picture looked largely clean and clear, but there were a couple of specks on the print used now-and-then. Other than that, the image seemed free of edge enhancement and pixelation. Colors looked subdued, but accurately presented, with no smearing or other faults. Flesh tones looked accurate, as well.
SOUND: "Hoosiers" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 on this DVD, repurposed from the original stereo soundtrack. The presentation doesn't veer too far from the original mix, as most of the audio comes from the front speakers. Surrounds are really not used much, aside from some slight ambience/reinforcement on occasion. Audio quality was fine, with clear dialogue and effects, although a couple of lines of dialogue sounded a tad harsh. Nothing really dynamic or noteworthy about the audio quality, although that's not too surprising, given that the flick is nearly 20 years of age at this point.
EXTRAS: writer Angelo Pizzo and director David Anspaugh offer an audio commentary on the first disc, and some promos for other MGM titles are also found on the first platter. The second disc opens with a featurette on basketball in Indiana, as the sport is a huge focus in the state. There's also the 40 minute film of the actual 1954 Indiana state high school championship game included on the DVD, which is quite a nice bonus. The writer and director discuss the fact that they had to cut the movie down from nearly three hours in their commentary, and at least some of the deletions seem to be included on the second disc, as 13 deleted scenes are offered, with an optional introduction. Finally, there's also a photo gallery. Overall, a really nice selection of supplements that will inform and entertain fans of the film.
Final Thoughts: "Hoosiers" is a bit predictable, but the film has a lot of heart and the performances are terrific. MGM's new DVD edition provides satisfactory audio/video quality and a very fine selection of insightful and enjoyable new supplements. Recommended.
The Film *** 1/2