Hoosiers: 25th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray)

June 20, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) has a checkered past, as his temper is fiery and sometimes gets beyond his control. In a moment that would become infamous, Dale struck a player on his basketball team, an incident that would brand him for life. A gifted coach with the potential to be a power in the sport, Dale now faces a future that has none of that promise. He still manages to find a position as a coach, but not at a well-known school or even at a school with skilled players. At his new job, Dale won’t face the pressures he once did, but that won’t stop him from pushing his team to be their best. Hickory High is his new home, where he replaces a beloved coach who passed on. The grief of his death has driven the team’s best player off the court, but if Dale wants to even field a team, he will need to bring him back. The school yields a weak crop of players at best, thanks to a small enrollment and few volunteers to be part of the squad. When Dale makes changes to the system used, he upsets the players and their parents, causing more of a distraction. His reputation is brought up and parents even demand he be removed, but Dale keeps his position. All the while, his team struggles with his intense practices and in games, the team is often quite overmatched. But Dale remains confident in his boys and no matter what happens, he continues to push them and try to guide them to victories. But when Dale is faced with an assistant coach with an alcohol problem, mounting pressure from the parents, and doubts from within his own team, can he lead his boys to a respectable season?

The greatest sports movie of all time? That topic could be debated until the end of time, but without question, one of the movies brought up in any discussion of that kind is Hoosiers. The film is pure formula, like most sports movies are, with an underdog team that seems to have the odds stacked so high, no one could overcome them, especially a ragtag band of nobodies. But Hoosiers is more than formula, more than a by the numbers sports movie, a lot more. The storyline is formulaic, as I said before, but we’re drawn in all the same, thanks to some incredible performances. Gene Hackman is dynamic here, not in an over the top sense, but in a sense that his role is full of passion. The role of head coach is often overplayed, even by skilled actors, but Hackman is able to balance the passion and the fury with realism. So yes, he gets mad and even delivers that expected pep talk, but it all seems natural here, down to the subtle details. Also in excellent form is Dennis Hopper, who doesn’t have a lead, but is crucial to the picture. The team itself isn’t an all-star lineup of characters, unlike more recent films of this kind, a decision that clinches this is a masterpiece of sports cinema. The unknown actors ensure the unknown players seem like normal kids, just as the film demands. I have to admit, I am not one for these “against all odds” sports movies, but Hoosiers is an exception.

Video: How does it look?

This is now the second release of this fine film on Blu-ray though this one has the moniker of “25th Anniversary Edition” attached to it. But there’s substance to this one in that we do get a pretty good-looking picture. The transfer has been “bumped up” from the previous MPEG-2 to an MPEG-4 and the 1.85:1 AVC HD image looks a bit more refined overall. There are a few instances of grain and a bit of inconsistency with the image in certain scenes, but by and large this is the transfer we were expecting the first time. Contrast looks fairly solid and black levels are on the mark as well. To say this film has never looked better is a true statement, but there’s still a bit of room for improvement.

Audio: How does it sound?

As for the audio, well it’s the same track that appeared on the first Blu-ray five years ago. Since they didn’t go to the effort for a new mix, we won’t re-invent the wheel either. This movie is not a powerhouse in terms of audio, but the included DTS HD soundtrack is still quite solid. In the few instances where power is needed, the surrounds kick up a few notches and deliver. So the echoes of a hollow gym and the roar of the crowd during the games do add some presence and in this case, that can enhance the experience more than a little. The bulk of the film is more about dialogue and low key audio, but it still sounds terrific. The little touches in the background can bring immersion to even a simple conversation, so there is never a dull moment here. The musical score also comes through well, which is excellent news since the music here is remarkable. As far as dialogue, I have no complaints, vocals were clear and error free throughout. This disc also includes a 4.0 surround option, French and Spanish language tracks, and subtitles in English and Spanish.

Supplements: What are the extras?

The previous edition of Hoosiers had nothing to offer in the supplemental department, but this new anniversary edition makes up for that. We start off with an audio commentary with director David Anspaugh and writer Angelo Pizzo as they regale us with a very informative and entertaining track. We learn lots of little tidbits here and there and fans of the film will really enjoy this track. A documentary “Hoosier History: The Truth Behind the Legend” is a 30 minute segment featuring actors and basketball players alike as they reminisce about their times on the floor and of the film itself. There are also eleven deleted scenes as well as the “Original 1954 Championship Game” which is the real game between Milan and Muncie. The video quality is severely lacking, but true aficionados will love this feature. The original theatrical trailer is also included.

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