Picks and Pans Review: All the Right Moves

updated 11/14/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/14/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

And here's more presumption in movie titles. Except for the casting of that superb young actor Tom (Risky Business) Cruise, first-time director Michael Chapman makes hardly any right moves in this turgid teen drama about coming-of-age in a Pennsylvania steel town. Cinematographer Jan DeBont gives the film the gritty look of The Deer Hunter, but the script by Michael Kane (from a Geo article by Pat Jordan) has the mushy feel of a TV movie. Cruise and pals Paul Carafotes and Christopher Penn (yes, he is Sean's brother and a beefier version of same) see college football scholarships as their only escape from a bleak future. The trouble is, the filmmakers rarely make the kids' lives seem all that bleak. The guys boogie in the locker room to a rock sound track, make out with cheerleaders and have time for hijinks involving jockstraps. For a while, it's Porky's Meets Flashdance. Then, suddenly, Penn's girl is pregnant, and he must forget football for marriage, while Carafotes—whose poor grades put him out of scholarship contention—turns to a life of crime. Cruise almost blows his chances for the scholarship by mouthing off to the coach, played in the lovable-lout tradition by Poltergeist's Craig T. Nelson. Nelson wants to blow town as much as Cruise, and these two actors are good enough to make a cliché-ridden conflict seem momentarily compelling. But in his directorial debut, Chapman, deservedly praised for his cinematography on Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, won't settle for a small, simple story. He shoots the football scenes in slogging slow motion, reveling in the mud-and-macho lyricism. And he treats Cruise and girlfriend Lea Thompson like a modern Romeo and Juliet. Chapman doesn't use the score of West Side Story to hype their sexual encounters, but by throwing in everything else, he ends up sacking himself. (R)

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