'80s Movie Month: "All the Right Moves" Review

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

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'80s Movie Month: "All the Right Moves" Review

Rating: R
Length: 91 minutes
Release Date: October 21, 1983
Directed by: Michael Chapman
Genre: Drama/Romance/Sport

In the movie "All the Right Moves," Stefen Djordjevic (Tom Cruise) is a young football star who has a vision of success. The only problem is that he has a major attitude and a smart mouth that tends to get him in trouble. This coming-of-age film centers around the challenges teens face every day and the choices they make while on their way to adulthood.

Nearly everyone can remember the guts and glory of high school sports, where every single game truly means something. Each practice and each season game is a step toward the championship and a shot at glory and recognition. Friday night lights bring a whole community together in a school where it's obvious athletics are the focus instead of academics. For a small struggling town, local sports teams provide a way out of the dreary existence, and this is especially true for the small Pennsylvania milling town where Stefen lives. "All the Right Moves" focuses on two choices for this high school senior: either he gives it his all at each and every game and goes on to win a big scholarship to an engineering college, or he fails and he ends up working at the local mill like his dad, his brother, and other relatives before him.

The film starts off after the big game. Stefen's team is playing the undefeated Walnut Heights team. His team is seemingly on its way to victory when Stefen fumbles the ball and Ampipe loses. In the locker room, Stefen is obviously disappointed with himself, has a run-in with head Coach Nickerson (Craig T. Nelson), and is kicked off the team. Nickerson screams at Stefen, telling the young athlete that he quit during the game and cost the team its chance at victory.

Afterwards, Stefen goes through a mix of emotions. The coach puts in a bad word about him with local colleges by saying Stefen has a bad attitude and quit the team. This leaves Stefen feeling dejected and ruined. Many of the fans and players vandalize Hickman's home after hearing what he did to Stefen, and it would seem that the two people who dream of getting out have destroyed one another's hopes.

While the plot is interesting and easy to follow, the story fails to explore the possibility that teenagers have a wealth of opportunities to be what they want to be. One can assume that Stefen is apparently smart if he wants to study engineering, and while his family obviously can't afford college, a football scholarship wouldn't be the only potential source of money for college if he were getting good grades.

The story is a believable drama. It explores the issues between Stefen and his girlfriend Lisa (Lea Thompson). The two of them go through the typical problems teens face, but one of the main conflicts is that Lisa is worried Stefen will get the scholarship and never return home. She tells him that she is doomed to live her life as a grocery store clerk, because band members do not get scholarships for college. We also learn that her family can't afford to send her away to school. Again, we are to assume her only option in life is to work in a grocery store.

Nickerson too has dreams of greater glory. If he can lead the team to the championship, he will be in line for an assistant college coaching job at a large university. This would mean more money and a better life for him and his family. He is hard-nosed, like many high school football coaches, and Stefen has a hard time biting his tongue when he's around.

The film is not simply another high school drama with happy cheerleaders and star athletes. The movie focuses on the insecurities of kids and the vulnerabilities that nearly everyone faces at some point while growing up. Stefen's relationship with his girlfriend takes on some adult aspects as the relationship becomes serious.

Overall, young Cruise shows excellent acting ability in this film made when he was just 22. Not far from high school age himself, Cruise is believable and likeable. The movie shows us an element of complete human honesty, and instead of a grand finale with an unexpected twist, we see touching emotion and are left with a feel-good drama that is sure to inspire and uplift.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars