Monday, September 5, 2022

#2,811. One on One (1977) - Robby Benson in the 1970s


With a screenplay written by star Robby Benson and his father, Jerry Segal, 1977’s One on One is, in many ways, a by-the-numbers sports film. Yet its tried and true formula, a gifted athlete overcoming the odds to prove what he’s capable of, is presented here with such warmth and sincerity that you’re hooked early on, and rooting like hell for its lead as the story unfolds.

Gifted teen basketball player Henry Steele (Benson) is recruited by coach Moreland Smith (G.D. Spradlin) of Western University to play college ball. Leaving his small Colorado town behind, Henry heads to Los Angeles, where he enjoys the perks that go hand-in-hand with being a star athlete, including a cushy job, free room and board, and regular tutoring sessions with senior Janet Hays (Annette O’Toole), who does what she can to ensure Henry passes all of his courses.

But Henry’s showboating eventually lands him in hot water with coach Smith, to the point that he is asked to surrender his scholarship and voluntarily leave school. When Henry refuses, it kicks off a battle of wills between himself and coach Smith that grows uglier by the day. Despite the adversity, Henry is determined to remain at Western University, all the while hoping for another chance to prove himself on the court.

Benson, a talented basketball player in his own right, is absolutely convincing as both the star athlete and the yokel completely out of his element. His first day in Los Angeles, Henry is robbed by a hitchhiker (played by a young Melanie Griffith), then propositioned by coach Smith’s pretty secretary, B.J. Rudolph (Gail Strickland). Characters such as Henry, with their “aw shucks” innocence and small-town naïveté, are a dime a dozen in movies like One on One, yet Benson handles the role perfectly, winning us over at the beginning and keeping us on his side right up to the (admittedly predictable) finale.

O’Toole is also quite good as the tutor who has a problem with athletes that coast through college, only to fall in love with Henry when his back is against the wall; and G.D. Spradlin makes for a formidable foe, pulling every string possible, ethical or otherwise, to force Henry to quit.

Based on the above, I wouldn’t blame you if you think One on One is the kind of movie you’ve seen a hundred times before. You probably have. But you’re doing yourself a disservice if you let familiarity keep you away from this heartwarming motion picture. One on One may not be original, but it’s damn good all the same!
Rating: 8 out of 10

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