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The Many Faces of Kurt Russell: THE BEST OF TIMES (1986)

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Best Bad Kurt Quote:
“You’re a low-life, blackmailing, chicken shit squid!”
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As a wise man once said, “The Best of Times is the worst of the times,” or something like that. You wouldn’t think someone could go wrong with an athletically themed movie. Even when the acting is sub-par, the story’s hokey, or the sport being examined is soccer, the audience can’t help but root for the underdog and get swept up in the majesty of team work and triumph. Every dude I know cries during Rudy. (I would too, but then I think of Toy Soldiers or Encino Man– Sean Astin at his best– and feel different emotions). When it comes to sports, the movies have convinced us that “ducks fly together.” Sadly, the dodo that laid the rotten egg walks alone and friendless.
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The Best of Times follows two friends who remain haunted by the High School championship game that they lost back in 1972. Turns out that Jack Dundee (Robin Williams) fumbled Reno Hightower’s (Kurt Russell’s) game winning pass. Reno’s knee was busted, ruining his potential for a college scholarship and an escape from the dead end town of Taft– the city of California losers– and over ten years later, he is working as an auto-mechanic who is unable to pay his mortgage and is about to lose his wife. Jack, with his embarrassing fumble stigma lingering, actually married up in the world and is a fairly successful banker. BUT he has no confidence, his father-in-law-treats him like dirt, and his marriage is also on the rocks… which is why he pays a prostitute to listen to his feelings. There is only one thing to be done to reclaim the crushed male pride of these sad, sad pandas: re-play that notorious ’72 game in the present and prove that they are indeed heroes, not zeroes!
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Now, when you take the bright-eyed, sex-appeal of Hollywood He-Man Russell and mix it with the comedic genius of Williams’ Energizer funny business, you would expect to have cinematic gold. Negatory. In order to profit off Williams’ unusual charisma, the film twists the plot into nonsensical and absurd directions that the poor guy sweats bullets trying to make humorous. Well, it doesn’t work. Nothing is funny. And you may as well be watching the McPoyle family play football when the actual athletic begin. It’s just damn uncomfortable.
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Russell and Williams surprisingly have no chemistry, and while both are competent in their separate storylines, the convergence of their particular talents (Beauty and the Boob) just doesn’t work. And none of the other characters do either. Jack’s wife (Holly Palance) is confusing and unmotivated, and I honestly couldn’t tell whether she was a bitch or not. Hightower’s wife (Pamela Reed) was irrationally showered with sequins and forced to sing badly every other scene, and these moments only serve to hurt your eyes, ears, and brain. Oh, and none of the other players on the team seem to exist. As for the other team, it is of course led by Jack’s father-in-law (Donald Moffatt) and filled with overgrown, aged frat boys who can’t wait to “crush Taft” for good!
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Suffice it to say, this movie tries to be Animal House for sports and becomes the pig slop of Animal Farm instead. For all the talk about football, it never feels like a football movie. No one seems deeply attached to the cause, except for Williams, whose character resembles a maniac suffering from OCD. Russell uses his magical Kurt-ness to keep things grounded as the Adonis-style straight man with charisma coming out his dimples, but unfortunately he doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Or a football field. He seems bored, and Williams comes off quite pathetic as he fights to make things interesting– to no avail. Anyway, you know how it all ends, but trust me, you won’t care. You’ll just be like…………….
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Rating:
1 out of 5 Rah Rah Wrongs
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