American Anthem

Reviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 09/23/02 10:34:55

"When we look back in 100 years we'll still be shaking our heads at this one"
1 stars (Total Crap)

Let’s be clear right from the outset – the only possible reason anyone could have for watching this inextricable piece of garbage is if you’re either doing a sociology thesis on hairstyles of the 80’s or you’re a regular visitor to the alt.binaries.erotica.gymnasts newsgroup. On the bottom of the video sleeve you’ll find the words, “The vision of love and triumph from the director of Purple Rain.” What it neglects to say is “…not to mention the director of Tango and Cash and the Nash Bridges TV series… let’s face it, the guy’s a hack.”

Though the video does include two “hot new” music videos from John Parr and Andy Taylor (who?), so I guess there’s something there for… well, somebody.

Okay, so let’s start this week’s class of filmmaking 101 with a lesson on what’s gay and what’s not. Gymnastics = gay. Using real male gymnasts in a feature film = gay. Having a lead actor with the name Mitch Gaylord = real gay. Letting him wear eye shadow right throughout the entire movie = you get the idea.

And who would’ve expected gay from the director of Purple Rain? Anybody with a pulse.

So Steve (they must have thought hard before settling on that name, eh?) is a gymnast who could have gone all the way. Plagued by dreams of getting gang-tackled on the football field (paging Doctor Freud), Steve has an unemployed dad who sits around wearing a wife-beater shirt and a mother (former Mama and the Papas singer Michelle Phillips) who is acres better looking than Janet Jones, who is supposed to be good looking enough to get people into the theater. Perhaps she is, in Police Academy 5, but here she wears a leotard to about the same effect that I do.

If you really want to know what the deal is with this flick, it’s the EXACT same story as Purple Rain. Talented guy gives up on his dream because his dad is a prick, falls for a girl who is following her dream, decides to give it another shot, cue many bits of contemporary music, all of which seem outdated by the end of the year. This is such a weak cliché-filled mess that it almost defies description. From the kid brother who yells “why can’t we be like every other family” to the determined star deciding he has to work out on the outdoor horizontal bar, even though there’s a thunderstorm going on. It’s odd, he doesn’t do a whole lot of training at any time when the sun is out, but cue some dramatic lightning flashes and this dude just NEEDS to gymnasticize. Or whatever the word would be.

In real life Mitch Gaylord was an Olympic champion gymnast. In real life today, Mitch Gaylord is a proud recipient of the Razzie Award for Worst Newcomer, given him after this movie was released. It’s deserved – as an actor, Mitch Gaylord is as bad as his name suggests. If Leslie Nielsen called a character in a Naked Gun movie Mitch Gaylord we’d accuse him of being juvenile and this poor guy has to go through life with that name.

Well fuck him. He made me sit through 101 minutes of gymnastics while he tried to decide if his father loves him or not – and he never ONCE got Janet Jones naked. What am I supposed to be watching here? Gymnastics? Are you serious? This flick is the cinematic equivalent of the legwarmer – it serves no purpose at all other than to remind us of how ridiculous things were in the 80’s.

Janet Jones is attractive. Albeit in a “very blonde hair, very dark eyebrows, very bad hair, can not act to save her life” kind of way. That said, she’s the second most competent actor (behind Michelle Phillips) in this entire flick. Gaylord is to acting what the Captain of the Exxon Valdeez was to environmentalism. The actor playing his father, Michael Pataki, seems to have taught Gaylord everything he knows – absolutely nothing. And then there’s the musical genius that is trapped in a wheelchair (Tiny Wells) but manages to make it out of his darkened room at the very end to cheer on Janet as she prepares for Olympic glory. Complete with a dozen or so close-ups of him shouting “YEAH!” – which people apparently do during gymnastics competitions all the time – this guy should never act again, if only as punishment for his hair.

Remarkably, Gaylord did continue in movies after this outing, racking up parts in the lame-o action flick American Tiger and a couple of equally as lame-o erotic thrillers (Animal Instincts and Sexual Outlaws). Stay tuned for director Albert Magnoli’s next “vision”, American Plumber, starring a real life Brooklyn plumber who quits his job at the peak of greatness because his father doesn’t love him. When things are at their darkest, he meets Sheila, a lady plumber from the wrong side of the tracks who is going for greatness in the art of toilet unclogging, leading our Brooklyn boy to once again go for gold. Or brown, as the case may be.

People, as much as I’m trying to make light of this thing, this is a movie you can’t even laugh at as you watch it. It’s just too excruciating to sit through. Think Breakdance 2: Electric Boogaloo, only much less interesting. And with worse music.

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