Picks and Pans Review: Tough Enough

updated 05/02/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/02/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Despite the clich├ęs, the overworked theme and its absolute predictability from start to finish, Tough Enough still manages some charm, thanks to its star, Dennis (Breaking Away) Quaid. Quaid is a struggling country singer whose artist's soul recoils at his job as a tree trimmer. Broke, with a wife and a child at home, he enters an amateur boxing contest in hopes of winning $ 100,000, national exposure and a possible recording contract. The film proceeds, with Rocky-like steadfastness, according to Hollywood plan. There are moral dilemmas, a mercenary promoter (in a terrific, gravelly performance by the late Warren Oates, in one of his last roles), even the climactic Big Bout. All of which would be pretty tiresome if it weren't for Quaid. His energy and humor give his scenes spontaneity, and his exchanges with his young son (Christopher Norris) are delightful, particularly one in which Quaid sings a rousing "lullaby" called The Jungle, written by Quaid himself. (He's an appealing singer too.) Film newcomer Carlene Watkins, as Quaid's concerned wife, is a little too self-conscious to seem natural. Stan (Roots: The Second Generation) Shaw, though, shows an energy that matches Quaid's. He becomes Quaid's trainer, and their scenes together brim with contagious enthusiasm. Director Richard (Tora! Tora! Tora!) Fleischer gives the film a light, unassuming spirit; he doesn't take anything too seriously. But it is Quaid who really commands attention. If he can work such magic with a derivative script like this, imagine what he ought to be able to do with The Right Stuff, the upcoming film of Tom Wolfe's astronaut saga, in which Quaid is cast as Gordon Cooper. (PG)

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