Paramount Studios presents
Blue Chips (1994)
Pete Bell: There's two reasons I'm incapable of cheating. You wanna hear 'em?
Vic: Tell me.
Pete Bell: One, if I break the rules...and I get caught, I'll get kicked out of coaching.
Vic: And what's the second reason?
Pete Bell: I might not get caught.- Nick Nolte, Bob Cousy
Stars: Nick Nolte
Other Stars: Mary McDonnell, J.T. Walsh, Ed O'Neill, Alfre Woodard, Bob Cousy, Shaquille O'Neal, Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway, Matt Nover, Anthony C. Hall, Cylle Cozart, Kevin Benton, Bill Cross, Marques Johnson, Robert Wuhl, Bobby Knight, Richard Pitino, George Raveling, Larry Bird, Jim Beaver, Debbie Young
Director: William Friedkin
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language
Run Time: 01h:47m:47s
Release Date: 2005-03-29
DVD ReviewBlue Chips plays like the antithesis to Hoosiers—at least on its surface. College athletics are making the news a lot nowadays, and it isn't always about exceptional talent during the game. There are controversies of cheating, illegal recruiting, sex scandals, and countless others. William Friedkin's film is an earnest attempt at examining the culture that promotes these activities and a highly entertaining one at that.
Western University's basketball coach, Pete Bell (Nick Nolte), has just suffered his first losing season. Pete's drive is intense, as evidenced by his impassioned and nearly psychotic prep speech to his team. There's no doubt in his mind that his team, despite their best efforts, just doesn't have the talent to win. Despite being one of the most successful college coaches, Pete can't draw in the new talent because other colleges are recruiting high schoolers by buying them cars, houses, and who knows what else. It's a crisis in Pete's life: does he accept the hand he's been dealt, or does he place an ace up his sleeve?
During the off-season, Pete chases after three remarkable talented young boys. Butch (Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway) and Ricky (Matt Nover) have the whole collegiate system clamoring over them and want what's coming to them. Pete succeeds in enticing the boys to visit his school by pandering to each one's respective religion and parents' concerns. He even has the opportunity to scoop up an unknown prodigy, Neon (Shaquille O'Neal), without the other colleges finding out about him. With the help of his ex-wife, Jenny (Mary McDonnell), he helps Neon raise his SAT scores in order to get admitted into college. But none of this is good enough, unless he can match the bids being offered by other athletic programs.
The heart of the film lies in Pete's conflict, as he eventually succumbs to temptation and enters into a crooked deal with the alumni association, represented by Happy (J.T. Walsh). Even though he has all the talent he could desire, Pete is in psychological and moral duress and the world is closing in on him. A reporter (Ed O'Neill) is prodding the nature of the recruitment and things could turn ugly fast. The script, by Ron Shelton, is more of a character study than a sports movie. There are some exciting basketball games, but the most riveting scenes consist of Pete reconciling his actions and their consequences.
William Friedkin was one of the cinema's hottest directors when he entered the scene in the early 1970s, but quickly lost his steam. With Blue Chips, though, he proves once again that he has plenty of talent in telling a good story well. The style is decidedly low key, creating an air of authenticity that cements the fictional story into the reality of Hoop Dreams. The basketball games are edited with skill and the character moments are keenly realized.
Where I find fault with the film is its inclusion of too many cameos by basketball personalities. Bobby Knight, Larry Bird, and many more arrive on the scene and really do nothing but to take us out of the story. Additionally, Shaq's performance as Neon is utterly unconvincing. He may be a great basketball player (though even that's debatable), but he's proven time and time again that he's a horrible actor. Thankfully Nolte's performance hits all the right notes. Few actors could pull off the conflict and anger of Pete Bell as well as he does.
Blue Chips serves as a reminder that college athletics are burgeoning out of control. It isn't a crowd pleaser, but basketball fans who are fed-up with the scandals of the NCAA should find it a rewarding experience.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer is a solid piece of work. Detail is good, colors are solid, and depth is nice. There's nothing that stands out about it one way or the other, but it's a nice catalog release.
Image Transfer Grade: B
|DS 2.0||English, French||yes|
Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix utilizes the surround speakers quite well during the games, but also during other scenes set in the basketball arena—creating a nice echo effect. Dialogue is always audible and sound separation and directionality are handled well. There also are English and French Dolby Stereo 2.0 tracks available.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 15 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Layers Switch: 00h:54m:49s
Extras Review: There are no supplemental materials provided outside of the English subtitles.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsAn insightful character study, Blue Chips is given a lackluster DVD release but is still worth a purchase considering its retail price.
Nate Meyers 2005-03-30