The Best of Times (1986)
Well it's not the Worst of Times
Come and get me sucka! - Jack Dundee
Do you ever find yourself reminiscing about the past and remembering something which you could go back and change, a mistake which haunts you on a regular basis. Well that is what "The Best of Times" is about, a man who for 13 years has regretted dropping the ball in a High School Football game and holds himself responsible for the town he lives in being in the doldrums ever since. Actually that is just part of the movie as "The Best of Times" was written by Ron Shelton a man who over the years has written and directed some very well known sporting movies and as such it shouldn't come as a surprise when I say that "The Best of Times" is also an underdog story as this man gets a chance to make amends and re-stage that game again. Sadly whilst having the potential to be an entertaining sporting comedy it all ends up feeling tired and predictable missing the razor sharp comedy you expect from a movie starring Robin Williams and Kurt Russell.
The year is 1972 and after years of misery for the people of Tuft they are on the verge of having something to celebrate as the Football team are on the verge of beating arch rivals Bakersfield for the first time, that is until Jack Dundee (Robin Williams - Night at the Museum 2) fumbles the catch and once again they lose. Now 13 years later and Jack is still haunted by that night, regularly re-watching the home movie of the game in some form of punishment. But when someone suggests that to get over the past he should stage the game again he coerces his friend Reno (Kurt Russell - Escape from New York) and tricks the rest of the team to reform to take on the might of the Bakersfield squad who unlike Jack and his over weight friends are still in great shape.
So as already mentioned "The Best of Times" is a combination of two stories with half of it being about Jack Dundee being haunted by a mistake he made 13 years ago and tries to make amends for it by restaging the game where he fumbled the ball. This is surprisingly enjoyable because I doubt there is anyone who doesn't have some form of regret which they wish they could go back and change or make amends for. And in a way it speaks to you as you watch Jack desperately trying to recreate that fateful night despite the years having not been kind to his old team. It does get a little messy when it draws in subplots surrounding romantic issues as Jack can't think of anything other than that one mistake and making amends but it sort of works.
And then there is the other side to "The Best of Times" the underdog story as Jack and Reno along with their old team try to beat their arch rivals from Bakersfield. To say this is all very obvious is an understatement as there is nothing fresh or new to update the classic David and Goliath style story. As such if you can't guess what the outcome to this movie is well lucky you.
The trouble is that it all feels very tired as it plods through both sides of the story rarely delivering anything close to being energetic, although some of the football footage is quite impressive. But it also doesn't help that with it being a comedy it actually struggles to raise more than a smile with some obvious jokes and others which feel out of place. It's certainly not what you expect from a Robin Williams movie and there is little sign of the energetic comedy or witty one-liners which he does so well. Even Kurt Russell seems to have been neutered by a script which denies him the opportunity to be funny.
But it's heart is in the right place with it's story of getting a chance to make amends for the mistake which you wish you could change and as such there is something a little charming about "The Best of Times" as it fills you with a desire to be able to do the same. You warm to the characters despite them being quite 2 dimensional and there is something amusing at how Jack and Reno are still friends.
As already mentioned this is not the energetic Robin Williams movie that you maybe expecting with it feeling like he has been restrained by a director who wants him to stick to the script. It's a shame because you get a sense that Williams is bursting with snappier dialogue but struggles with the dull lines he has to make funny. Even with him looking like a shorter and beefier Clark Kent fails to bring any more laughs. Kurt Russell is in exactly the same boat and whilst he is amusing when it comes to his almost lazy, hillbilly like persona he never really comes to life almost seeming to be going through the motions. It's almost funny that Reno looks pissed off for most of the movie because you wonder whether that was character or Russell actually fed up with being in such a mundane movie.
What this all boils down to is that "The Best of Times" isn't a bad idea for a movie, it's easy to empathise with the character of Jack as he haunted by one mistake and the fact he wants to make amends for that mistake allows us to warm to him a little more. But sadly get beyond this set up and you are left with a very obvious underdog story which ends up feeling very tired because it is rarely as funny as it thinks it is. It has some charm and it's not terrible but then for both Robin Williams and Kurt Russell it is a movie which would appear way down on their lists.
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