Rehashing themes from American Graffiti (1973), but with a milquetoast approach to storytelling replacing the visionary qualities of George Lucas’ enduring hit, Our Winning Season juggles the bland stories of several 1960s high-school students facing adulthood. Competently directed by Joseph Ruben, who has usually fared better with pulpy genre stories, the picture suffers as much from a lack of distinctive performances as it does from a lack of distinctive characters. Of the principal cast, three actors later gained notoriety, and none of them is is the lead. Future WKRP in Cincinnati costar Jan Smithers plays a young woman wrestling with whether or not to surrender her virginity, future Riptide/Jake and the Fatman TV actor Joe Penny plays the on-again/off-again boyfriend of Smithers’ character, and future A-lister Dennis Quaid portrays one of several interchangeable young men driven to stupidity by raging hormones. The actual leading man of Our Winning Season is Scott Jacoby, who plays an angst-ridden student athlete, and despite putting in a sincere effort, he’s ultimately as forgettable as his role.
In lieu of a proper overarching storyline, Our Winning Season presents a number of interconnected subplots. David (Jacoby) struggles to overcome the feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing that keep him from achieving greatness as a distance runner. Meanwhile, his sister, Cathy (Smithers), breaks up with her tiresome boyfriend, Dean (Penny), only to reconsider their situation when Dean impulsively joins the Army and explains that he’s headed for Vietnam. Providing would-be comic relief are the misadventures of a teen Casanova named Jerry (Randy Herman), who juggles relationships with two girls at once. (One of Jerry’s ladies is played by cult-fave starlet P.J. Soles, whose presence in the movie is fleeting.)
In terms of tone, Our Winning Season is all over the place. At its most desperate, the movie provides “wild” scenes of kids getting into trouble, hence the ridiculous shot of a car crashing through the screen at a drive-in theater. At its best, the movie aims for intimate drama with a special focus on the challenges that horny young men face when they first realize they must treat women as more than just sexual objects. Quite often, the movie lands in some unsatisfying place between these extremes. For instance, several necking scenes linger so long that they almost feel like softcore—it’s as if the filmmakers tried a little bit of everything, then cobbled the final movie together from whichever footage seemed to generate visceral reactions. Therefore, even though Our Winning Season steers clear of many obvious traps, the movie is as unfocused as it is unmemorable.
Our Winning Season: FUNKY