In honour of the NHL’s return, TIFF presents Rob Lowe on ice.
DIRECTED BY PETER MARKLE
There’s a reason Goon fans routinely place the Seann William Scott fable about a sweet enforcer alongside 1977’s Slap Shot, skipping several decades’ worth of hockey movie monstrosities in the process. The most pointed omission isn’t The Mighty Ducks, which doesn’t pretend to be much more than an innocuous family drama and star rehab for Emilio Estevez after the stalled Men at Work, but Youngblood, Peter Markle’s profoundly awful melodrama on ice.
Released in 1986 and feeling every bit like The Karate Kid’s daft older brother, Youngblood stars Rob Lowe as the titular farm boy, first name Dean. Dean’s a pip-squeak who comes of age on the ice of his very own frozen pond, then sets his sights on becoming a star forward for the NHL despite his total inability to hold his own in a fight. (Markle revises Dean’s talent as he goes, presenting him at first as a total novice, a Luke Skywalker of rural New York state, before unveiling his impressive stats on a previously unmentioned minor-league team.) That’s a vague goal for a hockey buff, but then Youngblood is an awfully vague movie, assembled wholly out of sports movie clichés, standard issue homoerotic bonding montages between Lowe and Patrick Swayze, and terrible electropop—from Diane Warren, no less!—that always threatens to lapse into an extended cover of Yello’s “Oh Yeah.”
Youngblood is a bad movie, but it isn’t a boring one. Legacy Leafs (or Blackhawks) fans will get a kick out of seeing a scrappy Eric Nesterenko as the Youngblood paterfamilias, an old scrapper who teaches his delicate son how to pull a jersey over the other guy’s head. That’s about all you can count on for unironic enjoyment, but only a churl would turn down a chance to see a young Keanu Reeves flout a dreadful Québécois accent (his first of two lines: “Paff, paff, paff!”), or count the artificially inflated beads of sweat on Lowe’s back in a pair of soft-focus sex scenes. It’s no Slap Shot, but it might be a gentler alternative to the raucous badness of Roadhouse, another Swayze vehicle that surpasses Markle’s film in every way except for its unfortunate lack of a scene where the dirty dancer shaves Lowe’s testicles while wearing a jock strap on his face.