Wildcats (1986) – A Review
Goldie Hawn has been raised on football. She knows all there is to know about the game and her dream has always been to coach. There’s a slight catch though – she’s a woman and no one takes her seriously.
She finally manages to land a coaching job, but it’s at the notorious inner city high school of Central High. Her rag-tag group of losing players are criminals and delinquents who don’t want her there. Through determination and persistence Goldie manages to earn her players trust and affection and actually manages to turn the team around and they start winning! Alright!
But she has to battle an ex-husband who thinks her new job is a detriment to her kids, a teen daughter who is feeling neglected and a rival coach who wants to humiliate her at the final playoff game. Goldie sure has her hands full.
There’s really nothing groundbreaking or surprising by the story. It’s another Bad News Bears-esque tale, just instead of little league here it’s high school football. The similarity goes even further when you see Michael Ritchie directed both. You get all the standard montages with the team training and winning games to a 1980’s soundtrack. Wildcats isn’t necessarily a great movie. It’s a predictable sports knock-off of one, but it is entertaining for what it is.
It’s really Goldie’s movie and she’s good in it. She’s extremely likable and cute, gets to act tough, feisty and sympathetic. She gets to do one of those inspirational locker room speeches, everyone rallies around her, it’s everything that you would expect to see in a movie of this type. Wildcats is one of her better movies that she had done in the 80’s. I watched this movie a lot back in the day when it hit cable.
The supporting cast is dotted with some small amusing performances. Bruce McGill excels at playing the obnoxious, sexist competing coach. He’s really such a smug jerk, I couldn’t wait for Goldie to defeat him and get him fuming.
Of course he gets his comeuppance. They really sell it hard too, he falls down into some mud and pounds the ground. It’s not so subtle a payoff moment, but you like watching it.
Nipsey Russell has some brief scenes as the principal of Central and his repetive line of ‘Righhht” I always found funny. I still find myself repeating that line every now and then to this day.
The football team has some young actors you’ll recognize – Woody Harrelson, Wesley Snipes, Myketi Williamson. They don’t do anything revolutionary and the initial vulgar jokes aren’t great. It’s more fun to see how Goldie handles them. The added shots of the Wildcat cheerleaders with their little dance moves and silly songs are amusing.
James Keach is Goldie’s ex and his whole part in the story not only felt so routine, but so by-the-numbers and uninspired that I would always wish they would just get back to the football stuff.
Keach gets mad, he threatens Goldie to quit her job, he takes her to court. Yawn! They’re just such bland perfunctory scenes that nothing stands out among any of that stuff – other than him walking in on a naked Goldie in the bathtub.
Jan Hooks appears in a thankless role as Keach’s girlfriend and Swoosie Kurtz is the typical best friend our heroine gets support from. All the fun takes place in the locker room or on the field. Russell and McGill are the best characters aside from the team. Oh, the ever reliable M. Emmet Walsh shows up briefly as Goldie’s football loving lawyer. He’s always a treat to see.
Really for me Goldie keeps Wildcats afloat. Keach’s ex story is a bust, including Goldie’s daughter who I find very annoying in this movie. Forget all the stuff when the story moves away from the football field. The comedy lies right where you expect it would – Goldie whipping her team into shape and butting heads with them. That’s where the entertainment lies with Wildcats and that makes it enjoyable enough.