Jolly Hockey Sticks
More often than not, sports movies follow the same predictable storyline that the lead role tries to make good, comes up against a seemingly unmovable opponent, feels that they're doomed never to win and then comes back to beat the opposition and be the hero of the piece. Sad to say, but released in 1986 and starring Patrick Swayze and Rob Lowe, "Youngblood" is no different to any of the hundreds of other sport based movies which fill the shelves of the shops, but saying that, I love this movie. Prior to this, the only real movie of any notoriety, based around the sport of Ice Hockey, was "Slapshot", which focused more on the brutal side of the sport, where as "Youngblood" focuses on the story of a player rising to victory and conquering his fears.
Dean Youngblood (Rob Lowe - St. Elmo's Fire) is a farmer's son who has a natural talent for playing ice hockey and a dream of making it to the big leagues. After leaving the farm and winning selection for the Canadian Hamilton Mustangs his future looks promising. Although when he falls in love with Jessie (Cynthia Gibb - Accused at 17) the daughter of coach Chadwick (Ed Lauter) it causes tension between himself and his coach. But Dean has another problem and that comes in the form of Racki (George J. Finn), an ice hockey player who wants his position on the team and brutally takes it out on Dean and his mentor Derek (Patrick Swayze - Red Dawn).
As I have already mentioned, the main story in "Youngblood" follows a tried and tested underdog formula which any fan of sports movies such as "Rocky" will be more than familiar with, but as the saying goes "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". So with a predictable storyline, is there anything extra in "Youngblood" to hold your attention? Well yes, there is a romance between Dean and the coach's daughter, which although not entirely original, gives the movie something extra. Plus you get the funny storyline of Dean getting an initiation from not only his team mates but also his randy landlady Miss McGill. Okay, so there is nothing breathtakingly new in any part of the storyline, but fans of succeed over adversity; underdog style movies will enjoy this.
In the lead role of Dean Youngblood is a young Rob Lowe who has been brilliantly cast as the young hockey star. I say brilliantly cast, because part of Youngblood's character is that he is not a rough player, he fears being seriously hurt and that is demonstrated not only by Lowe's good looks, but through some reasonable acting skill. Opposite him is Patrick Swayze as Derek his friend and ice hockey mentor. "Youngblood" came in what I would call a transitional phase for Swayze, as he was moving out of low budget action flicks and the following year he reached stardom with "Dirty Dancing". Although there is no serious depth to the character of Derek, Swayze comes over very convincingly not only as a sports 'jock' but also as a hockey player, as did Rob Lowe.
Out of all the supporting cast, there are two which deserve a mention. Firstly there is the team's coach, Murray Chadwick played by Ed Lauter who plays the snarling coach down to a tee. Along with this you have his daughter, Jessie, played by Cynthia Gibb who provides the love interest for Dean, and you can honestly see the chemistry between them. Other notable appearances also come from Fionnula Flanagan as Miss McGill the randy landlady and a very young Keanu Reeves in only his third movie role.
"Youngblood" is directed by Peter Markle who more recently has directed episodes of CSI and Numb3rs. Although he hasn't done anything remarkable to lift this above any other similar sports movie, he has delivered a movie with some very good sports action sequences and some very moody effects. What is quite surprising is that the dialogue is not full of the cliché comments which usually litter sports movies, and the delivery of the dialogue comes over as surprisingly real. As "Youngblood" was made in the mid 80s, it is no surprise that the soundtrack has songs from prominent bands such as Starship and Mr. Mister, which for anyone who has fond memories of the 80s is an additional bonus.
What this all boils down to is that although "Youngblood" may follow the same plot that many other more popular sports movies have followed, it is still a very entertaining movie. With the emphasis being on the story rather than the sports action, it has some nice touches of humour to accompany the drama. I feel that this is a much overlooked gem that is easily comparable to the much more popular sports movies such as the acclaimed "Rocky". Of course this will appeal to fans of sports movies but will also appeal to fans of both Patrick Swayze and Rob Lowe, as you get to see them before they really hit it big.