All the Right Moves (1983) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Tom Cruise plays a poor boy who's using football to escape his dead-end steel town. He's a B student, so he's not going to go to college on an academic scholarship, and his dad lives paycheck to paycheck, so he's not going to be able to pay for college. Football is his only hope to go to engineering school. That was an all-too-typical premise, but the film deviated from the normal "win one for the gipper" story in several ways, and those variations all made the story more truthful:

1) In a refreshing deviation from the formula, the team didn't win the big game. They lost because the coach made a bad call on the final play of the game. In a downpour, on a mud-soaked field, with a four point lead and time for only one more play, the coach called a handoff. The kids fumbled the handoff and the other team ran it in for a TD.

2) Like many high school coaches, the coach blames everyone but himself for all failure, and calls them all quitters and pussies.

3) Tom Cruise can't take it. He tells the coach the truth in front of the team.

4) As with many high school coaches, truth is not a concept he can relate to. To him, Cruise's rebellion simply represents disrespect and a bad attitude. He kicks Cruise from the team, and blackballs him with college recruiters.

5) Cruise tries to apologize, but it fails for a variety of reasons, including a sub-plot about some people who dumped trash on the coach's lawn, for which Cruise took the fall undeservedly.

6) Cruise realizes that the coach holds the power of life and death over him, and controls his entire future. The course of his life, whether he gets into an engineering school or spends his life working in the mill, is to be determined entirely by a typing teacher (the coach's 'real" job).

7) Cruise laments that all of his options have been cut off, and his girlfriend points out "welcome to the club". In his self-pitying mood, he completely missed the point that his girlfriend, being unable to play football, never had a way out in the first place. Basically, the girlfriend tells him to blow it out his ear, because the system is biased in favor of jocks, not against them. The girlfriend is a B+ student and a good musician from a poor family. Like Cruise, she doesn't have enough money to pay for college outright, and doesn't have the kind of academic talent needed for an academic scholarship. Therefore, she's looking forward to a lifetime of plus-selling from the drive-thru window, but she sees football players who can barely spell their own names getting full scholarships to good universities

Up until that point, the film really smacked of truth, including some sub-plots about other teammates who ruin their futures with criminal acts or unwanted pregnancies.

This movie came very, very close to being a great and truthful movie, but didn't make it. Here's why: the film had a complete cop-out of an ending. In the real world, Cruise and his girlfriend would simply do what other young couples do if they are ambitious enough to fight their way out of a dead-end town. They'd leave the factory town to get college educations, working part-time during the school year and full-time during the summer. They'd really have to struggle to make ends meet and pay their tuition, but if they wanted it badly enough and if they really had the talent, they could do it. It would just mean working 16-hour days and sleeping on the floor for four years while all their friends were partying.

But that isn't the way it went down here.

Get this - at the 11th hour, the coach comes to Cruise and says he's really, really sorry for being a big, bad coachie-woachie, and that he's just been hired by Cal Tech as their coach, and he'd be honored if Cruise would come and play for him on a full four-year scholarship.

Did you follow that? One minute before the end of the movie, Cruise is an outcast in high school, is despised by the coach, and has no chance to get into an engineering school. Thirty seconds later, the coach changes his mind and apologizes. Oh, and by the way that same incompetent high school coach has just been hired to be a college football coach.  I suppose the college's athletic director was either really impressed by the coach's having lost the big one with that bad call, or else the university really has a major personnel need in their all-important and world-famous typing department. Oh, and by the way, he wants the Cruiser playing for him. Oh, and by the way, the college that hired him just happens to be the best engineering school the writer could think of.

In the immortal words of the Deltas, "bullshit, bullshit, blowjob, blowjob".

All the Right Moves still has a lot of merit, despite the cop-out, and it's interesting to see Cruise and Chris Penn when they were (more or less) high school age, but it's too bad that they reached for the artificial, Hollywood, feel-good ending, because this film coulda been a contender.


DVD info from Amazon

  • widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

  • no meaningful features



Lea Thompson and Tom Cruise got naked and did the nasty. Just about everything was on display, including a close-up of Cruise's penis, which is amazing for a PG-13 film!

Tuna's Thoughts

All the Right Moves (1983) stars Tom Cruise right after he made Risky Business and shortly before his first major success in Top Gun. It is a coming-of-age film, with Cruise playing a rather cocky football player who hopes to trade his football skill for an education, so he can escape his dreary, go-nowhere mill town in Pennsylvania. He also hopes to bed his girlfriend, Lea Thompson. Despite the title, he spends most of the film making all of the wrong moves. I did come away with an important lesson. When your coach, who is also hoping to escape the mill town, loses the biggest game of the year by calling a stupid last play, telling him that in the locker room is not a career-enhancing move.

The IMDB score of 5.7 of 10 pretty much echoes my own feelings. Performances are good, everyone learns something, and the film does an excellent job of depicting just how depressing life is in a poor mill town. The problem is that it does such a good job in capturing this depression that I was deeply depressed by it, in spite of the happy ending. The highlight of the film for me is a sex scene in which Thompson decides to give her virginity to Cruise. She shows everything in what is a very tender and touching love scene. The Cruise Missile is also seen in a few frames. That was outstanding, but were it not for the sex scene, I would have regretted the time I spent watching this film.

The Critics Vote

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The People Vote ...


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. Should have been a masterpiece about small town America. Came close, and fell short, but is still entertaining, often moving, and still packs a lot of truth in it, if you ignore the ending. (Tuna says: C-)

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