Everybody's All-American Movie Review
Everybody's All-American stars Dennis Quaid and Jessica Lange, who first meet at Louisiana State University. He's Gavin Grey, an earnest football star who can do no wrong; she's Babs, the beauty queen who sees them as a couple and nothing else. They marry. He gets drafted to play in the National Football League and they build a life together. They have lots of kids, start a business and try to maintain the glowing example they set for an adoring campus.
This necessarily wouldn't be a bad story -- the life of a professional couple that we rarely see outside of award shows and feel-good ESPN profiles. It's hard to think of two better actors at the time to play these roles (the movie was released in 1988 -- though Lange was a 39-year-old playing a college co-ed, but that's another story). In adapting Frank Deford's novel, Hackford and Rickman use the movie to carry lame narrative devices and promote big issues, at the expense of undercutting Quaid and Lange's storyline.
Timothy Hutton plays Quaid's nephew, a bookish, quiet, young man. The character's presence in the movie is baffling. He's supposed to be a Nick Carroway to Quaid's football Gatsby, but Hutton's character is not a consistent enough presence in the movie to serve this purpose. Plus, he is as boring as dry toast. Carl Lumbly gets shuffled in and out to provide a condescending racial equality message. John Goodman, as Quaid's dangerously nostalgic college teammate, is fine, but he too often serves as a lame "the Old South is dying" springboard.
Quaid and Lange's characters get sucked into this trap as well. For example, we never really see what caused Gavin to become so attached to football after his cavalier college days when he realized how limited his future was. Even worse, Hackford and Rickman don't capitalize on this--there's no conflict between her and Gavin, no charged scenes of how her job changed the domestic power scene. There are a tremendous number of possibilities to be exploited, but Hackford and Rickman time and time again opt for lumbering, big conflicts that feel stale, indifferent, or recycled.
For a more satisfying look at the real life of professional athletes, read the work of Deford (a sports writing legend) or his much-lauded colleague at Sports Illustrated, Gary Smith. Such authenticity is lacking in the film version of Everybody's All-American. Hackford and Rickman comment on the DVD version of the film; you'll also find two archival making-of documentaries about the movie.
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