Monday, 7 April 2014

Wildcats (1986)





















Now this is what I'm talkin' about, back in the day, the sizzling mid 80's when films were loud bad mad rude and crazy...and lets not forget about the adult flicks too huh...zing!. This was a firm favourite when I was a kid, back then I only ever saw the cut TV version though, still worked even though it was cut.

A seriously young and fit looking Goldie Hawn wants to coach football. She was brought up on the game by her father, she knows the game inside out from him and she knows it. But women don't do these things, you can't have a girl coach a team of young laddish lads. Never the less she is given the opportunity to do just that for a gritty rundown urban inner-city school. Will she succeed in her new role or crack and quit?.

No this certainly isn't a sports drama, this is a badass comedy, the America football version of 'Major League' if you will (although Major League copied the idea I'm sure). The whole premise is cheesy and cliched by today's standards but back in the day this type of thing was reasonably fresh. The plot is totally run of the mill, don't go expecting anything new here, like I said its 'Major League' for football, that's all you need to know. The underdogs are a bunch of uneducated dropouts who care more about goofing off and getting up to no good. Hawn comes along to coach, they reject her and try to get rid of her, she wins them over, she proves she can coach, the players respect her and follow her, they start winning games, the team becomes a force to be reckoned with, they reach the championship against the toughest team coached by Hawn's rival...annnd they win. Simple effective basic formula used by virtually every sports flick ever.

Most of the team are unknowns to me but I'm sure many fans will know this film was the debut for both Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes. Snipes of course was also in 'Major League' and kinda plays the same character really, its almost like the beginnings for 'Willie Mayes Hayes'. But the film doesn't revolve around those guys, there is a whole team of young actors that all make this film work in a surprisingly funny way. There are some great characters here. 'Cerulo' is a real Travolta lookin' greaser with that urban Noo Yawk accent, 'Marvel' is standoffish and strong but gets turned around, 'Bird' is the truant criminal who is also the schools best player and Tab Thacker is the fat guy because you always gotta have a fat guy. Much kudos to Nipsey Russell as the likeable principle.


What sets this film apart is the brilliant all round casting of the team and...well everybody really. Even characters like the nasty rival football team coach played by Bruce McGill, Hawn's kids, James Keach as Hawn's estranged husband etc...they are all cheesy but well portrayed. Another element that became obvious to me was the racial divide thing. Hawn's character keeps getting pushed to coach at a posh all girls school on the rich side of town by her husband, he clearly doesn't enjoy her being around all these ruffians. Also most of the other rival teams appear to mainly white guys and of course everybody on Hawn's side of town is generally white. Then you have everybody on the bad side of town where this urban school is, there are rundown buildings everywhere, trash lying around, burnt out cars etc...and everybody seems to be black or hispanic. How could a pretty blonde white girl from the right side of town control a group of foul mouthed, aggressive alcohol drinking black/hispanic youths from the wrong side of the the tracks?. There aren't any verbal references to this of course but the visuals sure as hell shove it down your throat.

An amusing play on this are the Wildcat cheerleaders who are a ragtag team of about four or five black girls and the odd white girl. Funny thing is these girls are basically the ugly girls from school, a bit too tubby, a bit too skinny, kinda nerdy and dressed like shabby trashy street hookers. Not the kind of street hookers that would tempt you. Clearly done for laughs as the cheerleaders are not the type of girls you would want doing this, plus they are a simple representation of the school and the area.

That might sound really controversial, it certainly stands out if you ask me after a recent re-watch, something I never really picked up on as a kid. But I'm guessing that was the point of the plot, the aim of the game, the snobs looking down their noses at the dirty poor folk. Luckily the film is so damn enjoyable you can overlook it (I hope). The only real let down for me is the rather limp finish after they win the championship, kinda just drops off a bit really, shame.

The film is a cookie cutter product (not for its time though), you've seen it before, you've seen all the characters, all the teams, all the ups and downs yadda yadda yadda. Its not overly rude and its not outrageously funny, its just a very rebellious cheeky feel good flick with some really good fun cheesy characters. Add to that a cracking soundtrack which accompanies some great training montages and there you have it, a good time stereotypical fast food 80's football flick.

9/10