Plot: Dean Youngblood (Rob Lowe) is a natural hockey player, the kind of athlete who was born to be on the ice and he has surpassed most of his peers, with an eye toward a real career. His skills attract at the attention of the Hamilton Mustangs, a Canadian squad that would let him take his game to the next level, but he faces some resistance from his father. His dad is wary of hockey after Dean’s brother had a promising career snuffed out by an injury, so he pushes him to stay home and help with the family business, rather than chase his dream. But Dean’s brother refuses to let him pass on the chance, so he picks up the slack and Dean aces his tryout, which means he is now one step closer to his lifelong dream. But is Dean good enough to hang with the talent found at this next level and if the team needs him to rise above his rookie label, can he prove that is as good as he thinks he is?
Entertainment Value: This is one of the more interesting sports movies from the 80s, as it subverts expectations in many ways and avoids some of the usual cliches, which is a welcome change. The hockey elements are always present, but this isn’t an underdog tale or the quest to win the big game, more about characters and relationships, as well as our lead’s journey on the ice. Some elements feel familiar, such as the team bonding and Dean’s adjustment to a higher skill level of competition, but it also has some fresh takes, as Dean’s athletic angle is about him finding his backbone and in hockey, that means learning to brawl. The tone is mostly comedic and soaked in 80s vibes, but emotional beats are mixed in, with a crucial injury that inspires Dean and reminds him of how fragile his career as an athlete could be. These don’t elicit tears or complex narrative threads, but the attempt to add some character depth are welcome and overall, the movie is a cut above the usual sports movies out there. I also like that Youngblood has some fun 80s teen comedies elements blended in, with an offbeat sense of humor that helps it stand out. So for fans of sports movies, the cast members, or 80s cinema in general, this one is worth a look.
The cast has several 80s staples and even boasts a young Keanu Reeves, so fans of the decade should appreciate this ensemble. I think the performances are quite good too, with a kind of raw presence that matches the tone of the material and really helps elevate the movie. Rob Lowe has the central role and this is easily of his best work from this period, as he has great charisma and seems to connect with the character, as his turn has a natural texture. The role suits his persona and he runs with the part, easily pulling off the drama, comedy, and even romance when called for, while some viewers will love how he looks in a jock strap. Lowe has great chemistry with both his love interest and his hockey bros, so the characters work together well and given the sports environment, that is important to the narrative’s success. Patrick Swayze is good here as the veteran, using his charisma and swagger to drive the performance, while Cynthia Gibb is a lot of fun as Lowe’s elusive love interest. The cast also includes Keanu Reeves, Ed Lauter, Fionnula Flanagan, and Jim Youngs.
The Disc: KL Studio Classics has issued Youngblood on Blu-ray in a rock solid treatment that shows good detail and depth, though a little softness is present in some of the darker sequences. The image also shows natural colors that spike in brightness, while contrast is passable, but a touch light at times. I think fans will be happy with this one, as it marks a nice step up over the DVD editions. The extras include director Peter Markel’s audio comments, as well as the film’s trailer.