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30 years later, ‘American Anthem’ proves never sometimes better than late



You probably don’t remember the movie American Anthem. Let me rephrase that. You shouldn’t remember American Anthem. If you saw it back in ’86, you should have immediately forgotten it. As in that same day. And if you waited on feedback before seeing American Anthem, well, you never would have gotten within a hundred yards of a movie theater.

Released June 27, 1986, American Anthem starred Mitch Gaylord as “Steve Tevere,” a former football player trying to make the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team. Of course, in real life Gaylord was an men’s gymnast - a gold-medal winning one at that. But when it came to acting, the only award Gaylord would win was a Razzie for Worst New Star. (Runner-up? The actors playing Howard the Duck.)

But don’t blame Mitch entirely for this mess. Janet Jones was stiff as a pommel horse in this flick, playing Gaylord’s love interest. The plot was paper thin. The photography was questionable. And what’s with that stupid handshake the team gives each other?

The music? Actually the soundtrack - featuring tunes by Andy Taylor, Mr. Mister and John Parr - is pretty good. And probably to no surprise: American Anthem was directed by Albert Magnoli, who also gave us Purple Rain - another movie often criticized for being a better musical than a movie. But I digress.

To this very day, the movie holds a zero percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. To this day, it's strongest claim to fame is that American Anthem was released on the same day as three far-more-memorable movies: Labyrinth, Running Scared and Ruthless People.

The late Roger Ebert, writing in half-star review of American Anthem, noted: “The plot is dumb and predictable, but so what? Everything depends on dialogue and character. And American Anthem is a curious case: The screenplay seems to have been written by people who, on the one hand, were intimately familiar with every commercial and salable ingredient in every hit movie of the last five years, and yet who, on the other hand, had never heard a cliche before.”

Is it a cliche to say this: When it comes to watching some ‘80s movies for the first time three decades later, never is sometimes better than late.

[Last modified: Monday, June 27, 2016 9:02am]


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