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All the Right Moves

It's an '80s standard, but All the Right Moves has more going for it than a synth-heavy soundtrack and big hair. Thanks to strong performances by stars Tom Cruise and Lea Thompson, this is one football flick that isn't just about scoring the winning touchdown. Cruise — who, in 1983, still hadn't grown into his teeth or his nose — stars as Stefan Djordjevic, one of Ampipe High School's biggest hot shots on and off the football field. Stefan has all his hopes pinned on winning an athletic scholarship so that, unlike his downtrodden brother (Gary Graham) and father (Charles Cioffi), he can leave his bleak, hopeless Pennyslvania factory town behind and learn to be an engineer. But Stefan's quick temper and not-insignificant ego get him into trouble with his frustrated typing teacher/football coach (Craig T. Nelson, playing the angry version of Coach's Hayden Fox), who decides to make a personal mission out of keeping Stefan from escaping Ampipe. Along for the ride is Stefan's sweetie, Lisa ('80s girlfriend extraordinaire Thompson), his friend Brian ('80s best friend extraordinaire Chris Penn), and a teamful of other guys who want out, too. The film's gritty look and — up until the obligatory gotta-end-on-a-high-note ending — relatively realistic (if fairly basic) plot make director Michael Chapman's steel-town drama more effective than many of its multiplex contemporaries. It doesn't hurt that Cruise and Thompson are so believable as Stef and Lisa, either; sure, it's hard to buy that teens this good-looking are stashed away in the bowels of blue-collar America, but both actors nail their characters' motivations and fears. Thompson is particularly convincing when Lisa lays into Stef for ignoring the fact that, with no athletic scholarship calling her name, she's destined to be stuck in Ampipe forever, giving up her dreams of studying music for a job at a cash register. And the pair's sweet love scene (yep, they get naked) successfully mixes authentic teenage nervousness and vulnerability with Hollywood gloss. Cruise also does a good job in his scenes with Nelson; Stef's inability to keep his teenage guy mouth shut rings true, and Coach Nickerson's natural instincts to nip a cocky show-off in the bud — just as Matthew Broderick's character did in Election — smack of real life. Fox's DVD release of All The Right Moves offers a clean anamorphic transfer (1.85:1 ) that ironically highlights the film's occasional graininess and overall age, but the DD 5.1 audio is strong (other audio options include English and French mono tracks and English and Spanish subtitles). The theatrical trailer and Spanish-language trailer are included, as are previews for other '80s Fox films on DVD. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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