It’s been 26 years since the film Hoosiers was released. A low-budget film about a small Indiana high school basketball team and town. Based on the true story of the 1954 Milan High School basketball team, the film has become one of the more-famous sports movies. Recently, the Chicago Tribune held a screening of the movie at the Music Box Theater and the featured a Q&A period with actor Chelcie Ross and the real-life Jimmy Chitwood, Bobby Plump. It was a truly great experience.
The Q&A session explored what has made Hoosiers a movie with staying power. The low-budget film is indeed low budget. Outside of a few actors, one can tell that the actors used are not actors. While Gene Hackman and Dennis Hopper turn in great performances, to call the rest of the acting “basic” would be a kind remark. If you’re looking for Oscar-worthy acting or high-budget special effects, this film isn’t for you. This film is for those who can look past the shortcomings and into what the story provides.
What has given this film its staying power is the narrative of the underdog and redemption. The tale of the small-town basketball team with just a handful of players able to win a state championship. Unlike today’s modern state tournaments, during Milan’s run to the state championship, there were no classes based on school size. A school with just a hundred or so students played schools with enrollment north of 2,000 students. The ability to overcome massive odds to achieve some goal is something all people can relate to. Forget the basketball and one can see parallels to overcoming almost any adversity in life.
The other facet that has given this movie staying power is the tale of redemption. This story line weaves its way through the characters of Coach Norman Dale, played by Gene Hackman, and Shooter, played by Dennis Hopper. Hackman’s character is a coach who once coached a college program before an altercation with an athlete forced him to move on from the game he loved. It wasn’t until he showed up to the small Indiana town before he was given the opportunity to coach again. Coach Dale gives Shooter the opportunity to help coach the team. The local town drunk, who is an embarrassment to his basketball-playing son, also posseses good basketball knowledge. Dale gives Shooter the opportunity to clean up his act by making him apart of something. While this storyline may take a back seat to the aforementioned underdog story line, it is one that people relate to as well. Everyone in life knows someone who needs a little redemption.
One of the more interesting things to come from the Q&A session was Chelcie Ross admitting that Hackman didn’t really believe that this movie would be as successful as it has become. This movie is one that 26 years later, people still relate to. If you have the opportunity to watch or even re-watch Hoosiers, I highly recommend it.