American Flyers

And now for something completely different: a movie review!

I’m spending the weekend at the Metromint Zoo, a.k.a. teammate Niki Slaton’s house in Davis. She and her husband Jeff have three dogs and five cats, but more on that later. For now: movie! Jeff had obtained a copy of American Flyers, a drama from the 80’s about bike racing starring Kevin Costner and a bunch of people with long but less-than-stellar acting careers. And my spoiler review follows below.

The movie opens with some guy that, as far as my halfway autistic mind* is concerned, looks just like Emilio Estevez but apparently isn’t him. Anyway, not-Emilio-Estevez is riding his bike around wearing a cowboy hat and jeans on the streets of St Louis, along with some gratuitous splashing of huge water puddles that don’t make any sense, followed by a passage of office ‘cross as he very gallantly bunny hops up a curb and rides into a building getting off his bike and rolling into an elevator on its back wheel in a very fluid motion. Obviously it’s all accompanied with 80’s music.

In the next scene or so we see not-Emilio-Estevez announcing to his mom, whom he apparently still lives with, that some Marcus dude or other is coming over for dinner — something she is not pleased to hear. As not-Emilio-Estevez opens the door for Marcus (Kevin Costner with a douchey mustache**) my first guess was that Marcus was not-Emilio-Estevez’ boyfriend. No? Ok, father? No, brother, Niki and Jeff corrected me. And pointed out that this was the 80’s and we wouldn’t be seeing any gay couples in Kevin Costner movies from the 80’s. Hmpf. Fine.

Then some not-so-important things happen that relates to family history, but let’s not bother with that. There’s also some bonding happening between the two brothers over wheel truing, but the end result is that not-Emilio-Estevez comes with Kevin Costner to his home in Wisconsin and they talk a lot about bike racing. Not-Emilio-Estevez hasn’t raced (but he pretends he’s racing on 30-40 mile solo rides every day!) but is somehow quickly convinced that he’s going to try it out with Costner — who turns out to be a pro — at the stage race “Hell of the west”. Before they head out they manage to squeeze in a really awkward double date with Costner’s girlfriend Sarah and a really awkward Baby from Dirty Dancing that doesn’t do much for the plot except tie in a little bit more of the family history that I said I wasn’t going to bother with, so screw that.

Then it appears like the training for the race is performed during a week or so long drive from Wisconsin to Colorado, where the race takes place. Sarah drives while we hear a lot of 80’s music, the brothers look kinda like this:

Kevin Costner and not-Emilio-Estevez

On the way they pick up some really annoying hitchhiking chick that pretends to be a hippie so that not-Emilio-Estevez will eventually have someone to bang, too. They also encounter some arch nemesis along the way — the former teammate of Kevin Costner (on the 7-11 team, no less!) and, as it turns out, Kevin Costner girlfriend Sarah’s ex husband. But that moves into drama land again, and I’m mostly interested in bike racing. Screw the sentimental stuff.

Somehow the quartet reaches Colorado and not-Emilio-Estevez is about to enter his very first bike race. Along with the pros. Because that makes total sense. Yes. They have teams like USA, Soviet Union, and 7-11. Sure, mix and match. The Soviet Union team was the best, because their leader Sergey mostly looks like a wrestler. Unfortunately I didn’t find a full body shot of him, but here’s a head shot at least:

Sergey the Soviet Union dude

The Soviet Union dudes also get to wear the special helmets pictured above. All the rest of them were “helmets” as pictured below, where Kevin Costner wins the first stage beating his arch nemesis in the 7-11 kit (enter exciting 80’s music!):

Dinky "helmets"

Somehow, Niki was more concerned about the complete lack of sunglasses in the movie than the lack of helmets. But she has a point, it’s important to protect your eyes.

Oh yeah, and not-Emilio-Estevez having just entered his first race ever beats a shitload of guys which is good because only the top 48 guys get to continue to stage 2 — guess what, not-Emilio-Estevez placed 48 for maximized drama.

In between stage 1 and 2 not-Emilio-Estevez finally gets laid which is disturbing not only because the chick they picked up is really annoying, but also because the gratuitous flag waving culminates as they are having sex to the American national anthem. Now isn’t that hot.

I guess that worked for not-Emilio-Estevez though because the following day he attacks and has a successful breakaway while the arch nemesis is just getting more and more pissed, and we get some more shots of the wrestler-cum-bike-racer Sergey who really looks quite uncomfortable on a bike. The race leaders keep being in front pulling all day long, since the general public probably doesn’t understand drafting and wouldn’t get that they were the race leaders unless they were in front. The exciting 80’s music culminates as Kevin Costner has Issues and nearly dies but that’s part of the family drama I said I’d ignore. Suffice to say, after some incredibly sappy scenes in a hotel (“No kissing!”, Jeff felt compelled to say, as that really seemed like what the two brothers were about to do, and that’s just gross) not-Emilio-Estevez decides to go on with the race and Costner starts wearing a wool sweater and a cowboy hat. This is probably around the time he started to think about Dances with Wolves.

The third and final stage involves a lot of hills which apparently doesn’t stop Sergey-the-wrestler from breaking away with not-Emilio-Estevez and the arch nemesis. But eventually he’s dropped for a third place while the arch nemesis and not-Emilio-Estevez battle it out HTC-Columbia style with the arch nemesis initially trying to push not-Emilio-Estevez off the road which is countered with an elbow punch in the stomach. After a sprint that seems to jump back and forth in time, not-Emilio-Estevez wins the third and final stage of his first bike race which also happens to be a pro race. Evelyn Stevens has nothing on this Cinderella story.

And then the movie ends with some more sappiness.

I give this movie four out of five possible rusty Suntour downtube shifters. Cheesy 80’s music good, some actual bike stuff good, bad acting funny, but the sappiness pulls it down a bit. I would watch it again, if I had three beers.

* I’m an engineer, ok? We suck at identifying people.

** Aren’t mustaches generally douchey?

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1 Response to American Flyers

  1. Bret Lobree says:

    Interesting trivia from IMDB: “When the cyclists are racing at “Monumental National Park” (actually Colorado National Monument, west of Grand Junction, Colorado) one of the cyclists (an extra) falls off and goes over the edge. He actually went over a drop off that was about 1,000 feet, and was only saved from major injuries when a small tree snagged his bike.”

    Now that would have added to the suspense.

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