Film Review: Wildcats (1986)

Also known as: American Wildcats, First and Goal (alternative German titles)
Release Date: February 14th, 1986
Directed by: Michael Ritchie
Written by: Ezra Sacks
Music by: James Newton Howard
Cast: Goldie Hawn, James Keach, Swoosie Kurtz, Robyn Lively, Brandy Gold, Jan Hooks, Bruce McGill, Nipsey Russell, Mykelti Williamson, Tab Thacker, Wesley Snipes, Woody Harrelson, Nick Corri, M. Emmet Walsh, LL Cool J, George Wyner, Ann Doran, Gloria Stuart

Hawn / Sylbert Movie Company, Warner Bros., 106 Minutes

Review:

“Fuck you!” – Marvel, “Fuck you what?!” – Molly McGrath, “Fuck you… Coach McGrath.” – Marvel, “Better.” – Molly McGrath

I know that Wildcats isn’t the greatest football movie ever made but it’s always been my personal favorite and my favorite movie starring Goldie Hawn, who I thought was awesome in pretty much everything, back in the day.

This film also gave us Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes, two actors I’ve thoroughly enjoyed over their decades long careers. In fact, they’d even work together again, multiple times. I kind of wish they’d still do stuff together on the regular. C’mon guys, can we get a Money Train 2 or White Men Can’t Walk?

Overall, this movie did more to sell football to me as a kid than my football fanatic uncles and growing up in Florida ever did, where high school and college football team allegiances were like religious cults.

I love that this movie takes a strong woman, dealing with real struggles as a single mother, and pushes her to the limit, where she overcomes all of her challenges and proves that she’s got what it takes.

I also like these stories where the right kind of mentor comes in and helps troubled kids that society has already given up on and pushes them towards a much better life. There were a lot of these types of films in the ’80s, many of them serious but also some of them funny.

This is one of the funny ones but that doesn’t make what Hawn’s Molly McGrath accomplishes any less impactful or important. And while real life often times leaves kids like these without the right sort of mentor or guidance, as a kid in similar situations, I always found encouragement in stories like this. This also might explain why some of my favorite movies growing up were Lean On Me, Stand and Deliver and Summer School, which many adults and critics just dismissed as a stupid stoner comedy. 

Now the story and sequence of events in this are far from perfect but the heart and soul in the picture really elevates it. You like these kids, you like all the characters except for the ones that are supposed to be shitty but in the end, the angry ex-husband sees the light and the scumbag rival coach gets what he deserves.

This is a feel good movie and even if some of it feels paint-by-numbers and formulaic, that doesn’t make it a bad or even a derivative movie. This has enough unique flourishes in it to make it stand out.

Plus, Goldie Hawn is just so damn likable and adorable but she’s also driven, strong and earns the respect of her players, her critics and the film’s audience. And she does it the hard way.

It’s also kind of sad that Hollywood seems incapable of telling these stories well, anymore.

Rating: 7.75/10

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