Saturday, March 28, 2009

One on One (1977)

Directed by Lamont Johnson. "One on One" star and Tiger Beat cover boy Robby Benson co-wrote this movie, which tells the story of a heartland teen recruited into the sometimes dark world of college basketball. This feels a lot like an "ABC Afterschool Special" or at least a TV movie. Benson's acting style is very weird too -- it's hard to tell whether he's a decent actor playing a confused and overwhelmed kid or a lousy actor who is genuinely confused and overwhelmed.

So here's what happens -- and I'll tell you the whole movie because you're not going to actually see it -- Robby Benson plays Henry, who is smart enough to negotiate a no-cut clause in his college hoops contract but too dumb to understand its value. A player should negotiate a no-cut clause not because they don't think they're going to be good enough to make it on the team, it should be to protect themselves with time to get up to speed in case it takes longer than the coach thinks it should.

And this is exactly what happens to Henry. He doesn't meet expectations right away and the coach wants to cut him, but can't. Henry buckles down and the coach makes life difficult for him, trying to get him to quit. Sure enough, Henry finds his center and saves the Big Game. The coach admits he was wrong and extends his hand in what could be the beginning of a great partnership now that Henry has had the greatest character building experience of his young life. But instead, Henry tells the coach to kiss his ass for being such a dick. And that's the end of the movie.

I guess if you're who this movie was targeted to -- young girls with crushes on Robby Benson -- you'd sympathize with his character and cheer when he tells the big dumb grown-up where to stick it. But you don't need much maturity to see how short-sighted that is. Henry is a ungrateful little creep who doesn't recognize that the system is built to help him grow up.

A player smart enough to demand a no-cut clause anticipates that he might need a little time to get up to speed. If Benson's character really wanted to demonstrate maturity he wouldn't give up, he'd recognize that he'd just had the best character building experience of his life, shut up and play ball.

Still, I recommend this because Robby Benson is such a weird actor, you can't stop watching him because you can't wait until the next scene to see how he's going to handle it. Also, a 20-year-old Melanie Griffith is in the first ten minutes and looks great. So if that's worth anything to you, seek out the first ten minutes.

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