“Our Winning Season” is an exhilarating and inspirational coming of age tale of David Wakefield’s quest for high school glory.
Produced by American International Pictures, this was one of their later attempts to escape the stigma of the horror and exploitation genres that they made famous. Unfortunately, that AIP logo caused the film to go largely ignored upon its initial release and to this day is the type of hidden gem with a strong cast that got swept under the rug of cinema history.
Wakefield, exquisitely played by Scott Jacoby, (“Return to Horror High”) is a track runner that never proved his self-worth to himself or the school and decides that it is his year. He spends every moment he can get training for the big day.
His goal is to become the school’s track star.
Jacoby creates a character that tries to balance life, school, track and women, while being fiercely driven and never losing sight of his goals. It is impossible not to get caught up in rooting for the hero.
While not as good as, Barry Levinson’s “Diner,” it’s easily comparable to it because of how it deals with the interpersonal relationship of boys on the verge of facing the terrifying world of adulthood. Dennis Quaid (“G. I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”) provides a strong, early-in-his-career performance that allows you to see why he’s been able to stay afloat in the rough seas of Hollywood for over 30 years.
Another strong supporting performance is given by Jan Smithers, (“W.K.R.P. In Cincinnati”) as Cathy Wakefield, who plays David’s supportive sister who seems to always know how to get him back on the right track.
While the film was made in 1978, it is set in the late ‘60s and that allows it to deal with issues concerning Vietnam. It also shows us how that war personally affects the Wakefield family. Mix in a sweet love story for Wakefield, as he tries to win over the girl of his dreams, and you have the recipe for a great little independent late ‘70s flick.
Joseph Ruben (“Gorp”) is a tad sloppy in his handling of the picture and allows a few brainless moments to slip into an otherwise great experience. One scene that is a prime example of that shows a car that goes flying through the movie screen at a drive-in. There are also shades of heavy melodrama at times, but the main character is so endearing that these are minor complaints.
MGM took a chance and released this lost film on DVD with a crisp widescreen transfer and the three minute original theatrical trailer. That trailer is also featured on “42nd Street Forever Volume 4” and it is confusing as to why this would be on a DVD of Grindhouse trailers.
The only thing that may make it a B-movie is that it was produced by AIP.
“Our Winning Season,” much like its main character, tried to approach many things, but comes out a sweet winner due to a heartfelt and relate-able story and a solid performance by someone who went on to become one of Hollywood’s most recognizable stars.