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Breaking Away

Dave Stoller (Dennis Christopher) is just out of high school — and stuck in a fantasy limbo. When he's not lounging around jobless with his three high-school buddies (Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern, Jackie Earle Haley) and wondering what to do with his life, he's fantasizing about bicycling with Italy's Cinzano racing team. He's so obsessed with Italian bike-racing, in fact, that he rides for hours each day, shaves his legs, adopts a phony mama mía accent, plasters his walls with cycling posters, re-names his cat "Fellini," and woos a college co-ed (Robyn Douglass) by pretending to be an Italian exchange student. The juxtaposition of Stoller's Old World delusions and his blue-collar, Indiana-stonecutter roots makes the 1979 sleeper hit Breaking Away one of the funniest, most poignant sports movies ever made — a minor classic. However, one uses the term "sports movie" loosely here because, while Breaking Away is fondly remembered as a bike-racing flick — complete with scrappy underdogs teaming up to face upper-class jock snobs on the track during its climax — Steve Tesich's screenplay can't be reduced to mere sports-movie clichés. As in the original Rocky, characters drive Tesich's story, and the concept of "winning" is largely defined by moral and spiritual victories, not necessarily by whether our heroes "win" or lose." (Stoller's lowest point comes, in fact, when he races against his fabled Italian heroes and discovers — painfully — that being a scrappy, good-hearted underdog is no match for a bike pump in the spokes.) In the confident hands of director Peter Yates, Breaking Away neatly balances comedy, class warfare and the painful self-awareness associated with coming of age — particularly in its scenes with Dave's hilariously befuddled blue-collar parents (Barbara Barrie, Paul Dooley). Fox's DVD features a good anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) from a not-too-flecky source print, with a pan-and-scan option on the flip-side. Audio is in a new Dolby 2.0 Surround mix, as well as the original mono (a French track is also on board, along with English and Spanish subtitles). Trailer, keep-case.
—Alexandra DuPont

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