Published Jan 11, 2013If anything, the aggressively Conservative, formulaic hockey film, Youngblood, is a testament to the carefree indulgence and id impulse validation of the '80s. In telling the story of talented hockey prospect Dean Youngblood (Rob Lowe), it manages to assert the values of learning how to fight, both figuratively and literally, to be the best, no matter what effect it might have on the losing party.
After moving to Hamilton, Ontario to play in the minors, Youngblood is quickly knocked down by a looming physical competitor from the Thunder Bay team. Rather than learning a lesson about being the bigger person, or relying on the rules of the game to work in his favour, the trajectory of the film has our protagonist literally learning how to fight so he can enact revenge and engage in fistfights on the ice.
But since fight training montages and mediocre hockey action isn't enough to comprise an entire feature film, there's a romantic component with Jessie Chadwick (Cynthia Gibb), the coach's daughter, adding a bit of youthful irreverence—and unnecessary boob shots—to the mix. A little character defining doubt also arises when Youngblood decides to leave the team after the captain (Patrick Swayze) suffers a potentially debilitating injury on the ice.
Rather than learning about the negative impact of escalating violence, the moral lesson here is that bigger guns and domination will resolve any potential conflict. While appropriate for the sports movie template, it's terrifying prospect that speaks to cyclic historical instigators of war throughout time.
But who cares about any of that when there are gags aplenty about a horny house mother (Fionnula Flanagan) and the inappropriate use of dentures ("How did those get in my drink?!"). Coming from the director of Hot Dog… The Movie, this bit of vulgar posturing and dangerous simplicity says more about its time, culturally speaking, than it ever could have known or intended.
Oh, and Keanu Reeves pops up every once in a while trying out a hilarious French-Canadian accent.
Youngblood screens at the TIFF Bell Lightbox as part of the Whoa: The Films of Keanu Reeves screening series on Friday, January 11th at 9pm. (MGM)