Hoosiers, directed by David Anspaugh, based on the real life Indiana team, is the grand precursor to what created the sports film genre. The film tells the story of two coaches with complicated pasts try to coach a small town Indiana team to glory. Starring Gene Hackman and Dennis Hopper as the two coaches respectively, the film sadly not only helped establish the sports genre of filmmaking, but also subsequently ruined sports films by being the precursor to various horrible tropes and character stereotypes, that in some regards ruin the overall viewing experience of the film.
The characters introduced in the film are cookie-cutter characters that feel a nuisance, rather than nuanced. Gene Hackman and Dennis Hopper’s characters are stereotypical protagonists that leave no sort of impact of the viewer; especially Dennis Hopper’s character shooter who plays a drunk father who learns to finally love himself for once because of sports, a character that the viewer has seen in many movies before. Gene Hackman follows the same issue in a way, as his character Norman Dale has an emotional journey that is confusing all throughout. At one point Norman Dale is dealing with the town not liking him as a coach, while in ten minutes he’ll have solved the issue and moved on to dealing with a subplot that has nothing to do with the overall plot. Another character issue comes in the issues regarding the two coaches’ teams, with the students being made up of bland and uninteresting players, that are ultimately used as pawns to tell the predictable story.
The plot, from a modern context, is a watered-down story that can be summarized in one phrase: man gets his team to states and wins. Of course the creative team tries to introduce various subplots such as Norman Dale falling in love with Myra Fleener, played by Barbara Hershey. However, attempts of such subplots fail to make any sort of headway as the execution falls completely flat due to poor characterization and terrible pacing. Of course, this comes from the context of a viewer who has experienced copious amounts of sports films in his lifetime. If viewed from an 1986 perspective, when the film released, the patron could enjoy such a shallow story and plot. However from a modern context, Hoosiers has aged tremendously terribly.
In the end, Hoosiers can be seen through two perspectives. For starters, the film can be seen as a classic as many people have grown up with this movie. However, from a modern perspective, the one myself viewed the movie on, the film is a not very well aged wine that if done properly from the start, would’ve been a fantastic film.