Wednesday 7 July 2010

Movie Review: Everybody's All-American (1988)

Everybody's All-American tries hard to be an epic love story between life-long soul-mates Gavin Grey (Dennis Quaid) and Babs Rogers (Jessica Lange). As suggested by its clumsy title, it succeeds only partially, mainly because there is a gaping hole where the foundations of the love story should have been established. The movie skips over any early defining moments that glue the two characters together. As a result, the emotional impacts of the struggles, fights, and reconciliations that rock their relationship are significantly weakened.

Football player Gavin "The Grey Ghost" Grey is a college star who leads Louisiana State University to a legendary Sugar Bowl victory in the 1950's. His professional career with the Washington Redskins through the 1960's is a bit less glamorous, and he encounters personal tragedy with the murder of his college friend and team-mate; financial woes; and ups-and-downs in his marriage to his college sweetheart Babs.

The story of Gavin and Babs, much like the movie, generally hums along in third gear. Everybody's All-American never risks a truly horrible moment thanks to the talent involved, and yet rarely strikes any truly memorable high notes.

Dennis Quaid goes through 25 years as Gavin Grey without much alternation to his physical appearance, except for some belly fat in later years. He provides two modes for Gavin: the charming, self-effacing hero or the half-drunk somewhat angry husband.

Jessica Lange does better as Babs, and works her character's struggle between proper Southern manners and bold real-world ambition quite well. She conclusively earns her top billing in the movie.

Timothy Hutton is along for the ride as Gavin's nephew and awkward third point in a clumsy love triangle -- his main purpose appears to be announcing the changing years with new hair styles and facial hair, since Gavin obviously kept the same barber for 25 years.

There is an interesting but poorly developed sub-plot involving the character of Narvel Blue (Carl Lumbly), a black friend of Gavin's who gets involved in the Civil Rights movement. For all their good intentions, the scenes involving Blue seem to belong to a whole different movie, perhaps starring Sidney Poitier.

Taylor Hackford directs Thomas Rickman's script from Frank Deford's novel with a split focus on attempting to recreate either the grand romance of his classic An Officer And A Gentleman (1982) or the turmoil of his flawed Against All Odds (1984). He misses both targets, of course, but while Everybody's All-American is never remarkable, it is certainly watchable.

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