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Saturday, 30 July 2016

Retro Review: Wildcats (1986)

Cast: Goldie Hawn, Woody Harrelson, Wesley Snipes, LL Cool J
Genre: Sports Comedy
Estimated Worldwide Gross: $26,285,544

Plot: When a football team nobody wants to coach gets stuck with a coach nobody wants to hire, the laughs go into overtime. Goldie Hawn stars as a divorced mother who dreams of coaching high school football but who collides with sexist opposition. Only when the principal of the roughest inner-city school in Chicago challenges her to take a job everyone else refuses, does she finally get her chance. But tackling the opposition - including tough jocks & a combative ex-husband - may prove too daunting a task

'Arguably, Goldie Hawn's Best Performance By Far'

Kate Hudson's mother, and not least we forget Kurt Russell's wife, Goldie Hawn was one of the - if not the biggest - Hollywood movie actresses that dominated most of the 1980s and 1990s. And before that, she had a brief and notable stint on the comedy sketch series, 'Laugh In'. That show eventually launched her career as a comedic talent and from then on, she later transitioned towards mainstream film, starring in hit movies such as Private Benjamin, Overboard, Death Becomes Her and Housesitter to name amongst a couple. 

Directed by Michael Ritchie who was also responsible for the early 1983 Robin Williams comedy, The Survivors, in Wildcats, Hawn plays the coach of a struggling inner-city high school football team, and like with all fish-out-of-water movies (i.e. Dead Poets Society, Dangerous Minds), after some resistance from her younger peers, she manages to win them over and turns them into winners. 

Now I know that football means something completely different in different countries: whereas in Europe and here in England it refers to a small round ball that is kicked into the back of the net, in America and Australia, through Aussie Rules Football, football refers to a brown, pigskin, oval ball and a sport that is very much like rugby. It is really rugby with added padding and helmets. But for review purposes, any mentions and references to football I make will be in direct reference to Gridiron, as opposed to football as in soccer.  

So back to the review, Molly (Goldie Hawn) is a divorcee with 2 daughters and, plus she is also the daughter of a football coach. Molly has dreams and aspirations of managing her own side on a competitive basis. But when she finally gets her chance, Molly is lumbered with a bunch of struggling, late 20 -30 yr old jocks at an urban school based in Chicago, as she faces a new set of challenges (that also involves luring the team's best player - & street criminal, Levander Williams back into the fold). Despite the insistence from her rivals that she would fall flat on her face & set up to fail, Molly eventually succeeds. 

She doesn't let them get too infatuated with her pretty looks, nor become lenient in her role; rather she is committed to the task and tells it as it is, becoming stricter and tougher, both emotionally and mentally. And that is in spite of enduring a few sexist comments from the players. Molly also impresses the guys with her physical prowess and shows during the training sessions that she is a force to be reckoned with. Meanwhile, at home, she raises both her daughters well as a single parent, with her former hubby going out of his way to winning custody of them. She tries to juggle both roles without much success, but that all changes, the longer the film advances. 


For all the mixed reviews for the film, Goldie Hawn being the main attraction of Wildcats turns in what is, in my opinion, her best ever performance, - and it is a performance that hasn't really been toppled by her latter efforts. She was great in Private Benjamin, good in Overboard, all right in Housesitter and Death Becomes Her, & yet was not so productive in Bird On A Wire, The Out of Towners, The First Wives Club, Deceived. As Molly McGrath, she is no dumb blonde compared to many of her other roles she has been known for - in fact, contrary to that, Molly is incredibly knowledgeable, as well as passionate, enthusiastic and no-nonsense, taking no crap from anyone and surely knows the game of football, inside and out and uses that to spur on the players. The film also marks the emerging debuts of Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes, who starred in latter films like Money Train and White Men Can't Jump as a duo and individually with Blade, Indecent Proposal. There was also a slightly odd character in the team, Finch: the 400lbs guy with attitude, who wasn't lacking in sarcasm but still played a part in leading Central High to success on the field.  

There are some amusing moments and a brief nude bath scene, but for some of the coarse language and a few silly flatulence jokes, which were a little too juvenile and unnecessary. I could have done without the latter. 

Wildcats has been accused of being too predictable, hackneyed and tame in its delivery and though whilst it could do without some of the foul language, in addition to being another in the line of the underdog prevailing against all the odds featurette, it is still an entertaining and at times action-packed sports movie, despite its predictability. & whilst many would have preferred this as a sports drama, even with a basic formula, as a comedy and the nature of the characters, it still works, thanks to the witty and amusing script. The Best of Times starring Robin Williams and Kurt Russell, Goldie's husband, was also released in the same year as Wildcats, & yet that movie, which is also a football- themed effort, doesn't come as close to this. 

The main highlight is the match between Central High and Prescott for the city championship as the climax of the movie: fast, frenetic, hard-hitting, with great action. It was exciting to see the players charge up and down the field to the opposing end with and without the ball. & though I don't usually watch football, I can see in a film such as this why it is and still is today one of the most popular sports in America. 

There have been a couple of football-based movies produced over the years, but Wildcats is undoubtedly, and arguably the best of the bunch.

Final Verdict:

I'm no big sports fan, but Wildcats is a fantastic football comedy flick that appeals to non-sports fans and football followers alike. Goldie Hawn really comes to life in this film with a masterclass performance that I'd only wished she'd had plenty more meatier roles such as that during her career. 

And yes it's another run-of-the-mill, fish- out- of- water tale, which is cliched. Yet Wildcats also has some terrifically amusing moments, not forgetting the action-packed moments - through the training scenes and the main match- that really gives the movie that 'oomph' it needs. This was a favourite of mines as a child and it's still as fab today when watching it as an adult. 

Wildcats is a film worth sinking your fangs into if you enjoy sports movies, comedies or you just enjoy Goldie Hawn's movies.


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