Everybody's All-American (1988) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Tuna's comments in white:

This film recounts the story of The Grey Ghost, star football player from a southern school (Dennis Quaid), his fiance and Magnolia Queen (Jessica Lange), and the Ghost's studious cousin (Timothy Hutton). As the story goes, The Grey Ghost was the real thing, everybody's all-American, school legend, and genuinely nice person. Magnolia Queen was the woman desired by every man, epitome of the Southern belle.  The BMOC Ghost had promised the people back home that he'd look after his shy cousin who was attending the same school, so the three of them became fast friends.

From there on, the story got in trouble. One view is that it is the story of a football player's life, beginning with his glory days in school, proceeding through his selection as the first round draft pick by the worst team in the league, following through his decline, and then observing him as he learns to cope with being someone who used to be famous. Then there is the love triangle among the three. As if this weren't enough confusion, they threw in a civil rights and race angle with a black former football player, and another major sub-plot about Lang losing her Southern belle affectations with the "swooning fan" and "why little old me?" and becoming a shrewd and successful business woman.

So, was this a sports story, a romantic love triangle, or the story of the growth of a woman? I think the answer comes with the sappy romantic ending. It was a chick-flick relationship story all along. All three characters were likable, sympathetic characters, and they were played extremely well by the leads, but the problem is very basic. What made them think that a football story would appeal to the chick-flick audience, and vice versa?


There is good news on the nudity front with the DVD release. Lang shows nipples through her wedding night negligee, and does a back lit night nude scene

The deleted scenes also provided a pleasant surprise with breast exposure from Savannah Smith Boucher and a look at the rear and testicles of Dennis Quaid as he is whipped by a man who caught him with his wife.

There is also some male locker room nudity (anonymous rears only)

Scoop's comments in yellow:

Tuna hit the nail right on the head. Somewhere inside this script, there was a pretty good little sports story about faded glory, but the film tried to stretch out into too many directions at once, many of them too touchy-feely. The failures, and even the successes, of the sub-plots detracted from the main storyline. For some reason, the screenwriter felt it was necessary to give the film a happy ending which felt artificial, and was completely unnecessary. In fact, I liked the film best just before that ending, when it had emerged from its cloud and had become a sad story about the Ghost's having pissed away his principles and compromised his ideals. Probably because, as Tuna said, it was both a love story and a fading jock story, the script stepped on the purity of the ending and wanted to resolve the love story with one of those "Oh, Ricky. Oh, Lucy" hugs at the end.

Those elements did not make this a bad movie by any means. It is a pretty good movie with some excellent moments. It could have been terrific if someone could have figured out how to focus it properly.

Although the film is not a great one, I recommend the DVD because of the special features. There is commentary, and two featurettes and, most important, deleted footage. If you watch the film and then the deleted footage, you'll get a crash course in the issues which are examined before producing a final cut. There are some elements in the deleted footage which are critical to the plot, but they were deleted anyway. Without that footage, certain sub-plots don't make sense, and two major characters just disappear without any explanation. The main deleted scene involved the Ghost having sex with the wife of a "jock-sniffer". The husband, who had worshipped the Ghost, found them together and started whipping the stark-naked Ghost with a riding crop. In the ensuing melee, the husband ended up shooting his wife, the police were summoned, Ghost's wife found out about everything, and Ghost's wife lost her own job, because she was employed by the jock-sniffer. With his meaningless, drunken passion, the Ghost managed to destroy their lives completely. In a sense, it was the most important scene in the entire movie

There were several reasons why the scene may have been cut despite the continuity problems caused by that action:

1) It showed the Ghost having sex with a totally despicable woman. That fact radically altered the audience perception of him, changing him from a lovable but mischievous good ol' boy to a complete scumbag, and showing him having sunk to a lower level than we might want to see, making it difficult for us to believe Mrs. Ghost forgiving him.

2) It added yet another long scene which served to develop a sub-plot while slowing down the main flow of the film. (This was yet another sub-plot about the obnoxious jock-sniffer and his even more obnoxious wife, both of whom the Ghost despised, then later had to rely on.)

3) Dennis Quaid, then a gigastar, was rather explicitly exposed in this scene, since he was stark naked as he wrestled with and kicked the husband.

Personally, I would not have cut this scene, which explained a lot that needed explaining.

There was another scene I would not have cut, because it was only a couple of seconds long and made a very powerful point. The Ghost and his wife were watching TV when he saw an unidentified old man as the mystery guest on What's My Line. His wife says, in amazement,  "That's Errol Flynn", and just for an instant, Mr. and Mrs. Ghost were looking at his own ghastly future, a time when people will say "who's that old guy", and someone will yell out "he used to be the Gray Ghost". I did listen to the commentary, and the director seemed to be completely unaware of the fact that Flynn's fate foreshadowed Ghost's. He seemed to think that it was merely irrelevant period detail. The writer is also on the commentary track, and he really tried to tell the director that Flynn was "another guy without a second act", but the director didn't seem to be paying attention - in fact he thought it was a joke, and started laughing.

By the way, the director was Taylor Hackford. Although I've criticized some of the decisions he made with this movie, I like his work. He is a solid director with some impressive career highlights:

So the film had a good director. The original source of the All-American script was a novel written by Frank DeFord, who was one of the best sportswriters of his generation, so you know he had the details right, and the film had good source material. It also had an excellent cast.

Which brings us right back to our original point  - there were plenty of individual elements that should have added up to a great film, but didn't.

DVD info from Amazon

  • Commentary by director Taylor Hackford and screenwriter Tom Rickman

  • Additional scenes with optional commentary by director Taylor Hackford and screenwriter Tom Rickman

  • Vintage making-of featurettes: "Behind the Scenes" and "A Football Story"

  • Theatrical Trailer

  • Widescreen anamorphic format

Two sidebars:

  • I don't know the record for the oldest person ever to play a student in a major film, but Jessica Lange's character is a junior in college when the film begins, and Ms Lange was 39 at the time. This is the oldest example I can cite, possibly excepting Jason Priestly, who was a 67 year old high school student on Beverly Hills 90210. (Seriously, Priestly was 29 in his last year on that show.)

  • When I watched this film, it dawned on me that the girl that they got to play Jessica Lange as a young woman in Big Fish looked amazingly like Jessica Lange playing herself as a young woman in Everybody's All-American.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Roger Ebert 2/4.

The People Vote ...

  • It was a box office failure. It grossed only $12 million in the USA.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, Tuna says, "This is a C-. Either the football story or the love triangle would have worked well, even if a little bit formulaic, but combining the two ending up bothering everyone." Scoop says, "C is my appraisal, but I agree with Tuna completely."

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