movies, nostalgia

Repost: My review of the 80s gymnastics film, American Anthem…

Here’s another repost. I originally wrote this movie review for on May 21, 2007. I am reposting it here for the sake of nostalgia. It appears here as/is.

American Anthem… What’s reality got to do with Hollywood?

Pros: Music video quality. Decent soundtrack. Nice shots of Gaylord in shorts. Mindless fun.

Cons: Incredibly stupid plot. Bad acting. May be hard to find.

Twenty years ago, I was a devoted cable TV fan who had just discovered gymnastics. No, I’ve never been one to turn a cartwheel myself (having big jugs makes acrobatics difficult), but I do enjoy watching the sport. In 1986, the U.S. men’s gymnastics team was still basking in the glory of their team gold medal at the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Hunky Olympic gymnast Mitch Gaylord apparently wanted to cash in on his new found fame and good looks. Perhaps he also wanted to get out of the gym.

I don’t know the real reasons behind his decision to make the 1986 flop American Anthem and try his hand at acting, but the regrettable fact remains that Gaylord does have American Anthem on his resume. Yesterday, I had the chance to view it again, courtesy of’s new Unbox service.

Let me be frank. When I was a teenager, I loved this movie. It used to come on HBO all the time and I never got tired of watching it. Now that I’m in my 30s (um… 50), this movie is not as enchanting. In fact, I’m pretty embarrassed to even count this flick as a guilty pleasure.

Anyway, Mitch Gaylord plays Steve Tevere, a former high school football star turned gymnast turned sports burnout. Steve Tevere lives with his parents, played by Michelle Phillips and John Aprea, and his little brother, Mikey, played by R.J. Williams, and works at the local motorcycle factory. Although at the beginning of the film, ol’ Steve has given up his dreams of gymnastics glory, he still hangs out with his athlete buddies and sneaks into the gym to watch them work out. And that’s when he catches sight of the babelicious newcomer to the gym, Julie Lloyd, played by dancer, Janet Jones (future wife of hockey star, Wayne Gretzky).

Julie Lloyd moved to the gym against her parents’ wills to train with the demanding Coach Soranhoff, played by Michael Pataki. She quickly makes friends with a hardworking but less sexy gymnast named Becky Cameron, played by former University of Florida gymnast Maria Anz. When Julie and Becky go out for some good times at the local bar, they run into Steve, who immediately hits on Julie. Julie and Steve predictably hook up, which leads Steve to consider going back to gymnastics. After getting a lecture from his friend, Kirk Baker, played by Stacy Maloney, Steve decides to go back to the gym. His father is against his decision, leading them to fight.

There’s a third plot in this story. Julie’s disabled cousin Arthur, played by Andrea Bianchi, also happens to live in the same town as the gym. Arthur lost his parents in a car crash and was left with a leg brace. He spends his time holed up in a house, composing music on his synthesizer. Julie pays him a visit and establishes his role in the film.

Both Julie and Steve are headstrong athletes dealing with personal conflicts. Steve struggles with a fear of not living up to his past successes. He’s unhappy as a clearly mature man, living with his parents and working at a dead end job. And Julie doesn’t like her floor exercise music. If I could, I’d insert an eyeroll smiley right here. Since I don’t have access to smilies, I will just repeat myself in italics. Julie’s conflict is that she doesn’t like her coach’s choice in music for her floor exercise routine. After listening to and watching Julie’s routine, I can’t say I blame her. The flatulent sounding piece sounds like it was an early inspiration for the Who Framed Roger Rabbit soundtrack.

Anyway, Julie would rather use a dynamic, snazzy piece composed by her disabled cousin, Arthur. The coach won’t hear of it, so Julie gets an attitude at a regional meet, which upsets her teammate, Becky Cameron. The movie plods on with Steve on the outs with his parents– especially his father– and Julie on the outs with the coach and her high achieving teammate. Arthur hangs out on the sidelines, pressuring Julie to use his music instead of the beastly number the coach has chosen.

At this point, I’ll just say that naturally, Steve and Julie work through their issues to become triumphant at the movie’s splashy gymnastics meet finale. They also make progress in healing their personal rifts with family. Incidentally, I always get a kick out of the final gymnastics meet, meant to choose the U.S. gymnastics team. I read that the scene was filmed in the gym of an abandoned high school. The overall lighting is kept low, with dramatic colored lights very obviously displayed. It looks more like the Ice Capades than an actual gymnastics meet. Watch gymnastics on ESPN someday and you’ll see that the lighting in real meets is kept very bright. But then again, these are the movies. What’s reality got to do with Hollywood?

American Anthem is a pretty stupid movie. For one thing, Janet Jones and Mitch Gaylord were way too old for their parts. Most serious female gymnasts are in their early to late teens with a few managing to hang on in their 20s. In 1986, Janet Jones was 25 years old. Although she was thin and had a beautiful dancer’s body, she certainly didn’t have a gymnast’s body. Successful gymnasts tend to be very small, flat-chested, and childlike. Make no mistake, Janet Jones did not look like a child in this movie. Male gymnasts tend to be a bit older, but the way this story is presented, it looks like Steve Tevere is supposed to be several years younger than the 25 year old man Mitch Gaylord was at the time.

For another thing, Julie and Steve are shown spending a lot of time having fun. Steve, in particular, seems to spend all his spare time smoking Marlboros and drinking beer. Julie hangs out with her disabled cousin, coming up with a new floor exercise routine with the music he composed for her. Again, it’s unrealistic. Serious gymnasts spend most of their time at the gym. They don’t have time for fooling around. There’s only one realistic looking gymnast in this film and that’s 12 year old Jenny Ester, who played Tracy Prescott. Jenny Ester was an actual top level gymnast in the 1980s.

The acting is laughable, too. The only character in this film whose acting really impressed me was R.J. Williams’, who was eight years old when this flick was made. I thought he did a fantastic job considering the material he had to work with. Everybody else delivered their lines with all the personality of an empty pizza box.

The one thing that does stick out about this film is that it looks like a music video. Famed Hollywood composer Alan Silvestri scored the film and several rock stars, including John Parr, Graham Nash, Andy Taylor (of Duran Duran), and Mr. Mister all contribute tracks. The music is non-stop throughout this film, along with plenty of cinematic photography. It shouldn’t be surprising that this movie looks like a music video, since it was directed by Albert Magnoli, who also directed Prince’s film debut, Purple RainPurple Rain is another 80s guilty pleasure for me, but like American Anthem, it’s not long on great acting.

Filthy language is at a bare minimum in American Anthem. The flick is rated PG-13 and I only heard the F-bomb dropped once. But this movie runs for an hour and 40 minutes and unfortunately, the time is mostly filled with boring dialog, 80s music, and sexy guys and girls in leotards. The gymnastics are kind of fun to watch, but they look pretty dated nowadays. It’s also pretty obvious that whoever did Janet Jones’ gymnastics stunts was quite a bit shorter than Jones.

Watching American Anthem is probably not the greatest use of your time. In fact, it amazes me that this movie actually had a short run in movie theaters. I recall that it was on video in record time. However, people must have liked it since it seems that a DVD release may be coming in the near future. Of course, you can download it off for $9.99 or buy the videocassette for an arm and a leg. Unless you really love gymnastics or have a unique fondness for movies that are so bad they’re good, I’d recommend skipping American Anthem.

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movies, nostalgia, silliness

Moving Violations…

A couple of days ago, I shared an article from USA Today about how rude it is to recline your seat on an economy class flight. It generated a spirited discussion. Personally, I rarely recline on flights. The little bit the seat goes back doesn’t affect my comfort enough to make it worthwhile. I also hate it when people do it to me, so I don’t do it to others. And yes, I do think it’s rude to recline, especially on short flights, and especially when you don’t have any regard for the person sitting behind you. I mean, if someone asked me if I minded if they reclined, I probably wouldn’t say it did. In fact, I would appreciate the consideration. But if they stay reclined when I’m trying to eat, I would not think much of them.

I realize I’m short, though, so I don’t have too much of a problem with leg room. Also, even though I’m definitely not a small person, I can fit in the seat without spilling over. In Europe, I usually fly business class anyway, simply because I hate the whole experience of flying and want it to be as painless as possible. I’m going to be flying on Sunday in business class, while Bill will be in coach. He’s flying on his company’s dime, while I’m flying on ours.

Anyway… that thread got kind of contentious as we remembered experiences we’ve all had on flights. I’ve run into a few people who were total jerks on the plane. For instance, I remembered this one guy who was reclined in my lap for hours. I finally had to get up to pee, but his seat back was craned back, so I had to contort my body to get into the aisle from the window seat. I grabbed the top of the seat for balance and he gave me the stink eye. So I glared right back at him. Dude, if you’re going to be leaned back into my lap for hours, I’m going to have to wake you up when I have to pee. And then I added this…

Civilized, I know… I also need to watch The Help again.

The thread continued, and I was suddenly reminded of a somewhat obscure film from 1985. The film, which was made by the people who brought us the Police Academy movies of the 80s, was called Moving Violations. I saw it in the theater twice, accompanied by our neighborhood pervert, Mr. D., who used to show me porn magazines. For some reason, my parents didn’t think it was odd that a middle aged man was so interested in hanging out with their pre-pubescent daughter, but I digress.

Moving Violations is a super cheesy film, but it remains a guilty pleasure. It starred Bill Murray’s younger brother, John. John tried hard to sound like his brother. I thought he was funny when I was 12 or 13 years old. I now see why his film career was short lived. I still love this movie, though, even though it’s pretty lowbrow.


Anyway, Moving Violations did have some pretty funny moments in it that are still funny in 2019. One of the women in the movie was the adorable Nedra Volz, also known for playing the housekeeper Adelaide on the popular 80s era sitcom, Diff’rent Strokes. In Moving Violations, Nedra plays Mrs. Loretta Houk, who is pretty much blind. She finds herself in all kinds of crazy situations, like the one below…

Those of us who were around in the 80s will remember Clara Peller, who got very famous as Wendy’s pitchwoman. She used to yell, “Where’s the beef!”

Because Nedra’s character, Loretta, was so blind, she got in trouble for driving her car on the tarmac at the airport. She, and a bunch of other hapless nitwits, end up having to take driver’s education dispensed by the most uptight asshole cops ever. It seems clear that they will never pass the course and will spend the rest of their lives taking public transportation. In Loretta’s case, the rest of her life wasn’t that long, but still…


As I was reading the comments from my seat reclining thread, I was suddenly reminded of the scene in Moving Violations in which Loretta and the rest of the motley crew of would be drivers are trying to study for the driver’s exam. They’re a bit depressed at what seems to be insurmountable odds at getting their licenses returned to them. Loretta is not just depressed; she’s drunk! And when John Murray’s character, Dana Cannon, rallies the group’s spirits and revives them with the spirit to fight back, Loretta yells, “Yeah, fuck him! Rip his nuts off!”


Suddenly, I wish I had this film on DVD, though someone has thoughtfully uploaded it on YouTube. I may watch it today, as I struggle to get through the next few days.

I hope if I make it to Nedra’s age, I’m half as cool and funny as she was. I fear I’m already taller than she was, although not by much. Glad I was around in the 80s, too. I like to think of that time when the United States was still kind of “normal”.

As for flying… I think we could all stand to be more considerate and empathetic. If you’re in coach class and you need to recline your seat, at least be polite enough to see if the person behind you is eating or using their tray table. Otherwise, you might find yourself in an unpleasant altercation with a stranger and a meeting with a tight-assed cop like the one on Moving Violations.