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John Badham
Kevin Costner, David Grant, Rae Dawn Chong
Writing Credits:
Steve Tesich

Two brothers compete in a bicycle racing competition.

Rated PG-13.

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 112 min.
Price: $21.99
Release Date: 4/12/2022

• Trailer


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American Flyers [Blu-Ray] (1985)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 13, 2022)

Wow – it feels like just yesterday that I watched Fandango, the first of Kevin Costner’s three movies from 1985.

Oh wait – I did view that film just yesterday.

Easily the most famous of the bunch, Silverado came second. This left American Flyers as Costner’s final entry from 1985.

After the death of their father, brothers Marcus (Costner) and David Sommers (David Grant) suffer from a rift in their relationship. In an attempt to reconcile, Marcus convinces to come with him and wife Sarah (Rae Dawn Chong) to train for a bicycle race across the Rocky Mountains.

However, the family line suffers from a potential brain aneurysm that could severely impair or kill at any moment. The brothers reconnect with this looming specter over them.

Of Costner’s three 1985 films, people really only remember Silverado for non-Costner reasons. While not much of a hit at the box office, it maintained a decent audience and reputation over the years.

Neither Fandango nor Flyers did enough business to come higher than 145th at the US box office among 1985 releases. In the case of the muddled Fandango, the lack of success didn’t seem like a shame.

Though superior to the flawed Fandango, I also can’t claim that Flyers missed out on an audience it deserved. While it comes with some positives, it lacks a lot of real purpose beyond its tear-jerking melodrama.

Screenwriter Steve Tesich earned fame – and an Oscar – for 1979’s Breaking Away. Given that both deal with bicycle racing, Flyers feels like Tesich’s attempt to relive prior glories.

Breaking Away worked because it offered a well-developed character tale with the climactic race as gravy. With Flyers, the story develops neither side of the story in an especially compelling manner.

Though only separated by six years, Away and Flyers really come from two very different cinematic eras. In 1979, movies favored a gritty sense of honesty vs. 1985, at which point rah-rah positivity seemed more important.

Of course, that didn’t hold true for all movies, but it nonetheless feels impossible not to see both as reflective of their eras, and this creates a problem for Flyers. While it wants to dabble in more serious topics, it really prefers to give us superficial material overall.

Flyers essentially splits into two halves. In the first, we get a mix of exposition with road trip bonding, whereas the second focuses on the race as well as medical melodrama.

Neither really works. The opening segment introduces the roles in a superficial manner that never allows them to become more than one-dimensional.

Whereas the second half could – and should – expand the parts, instead it concentrates on the Big Race and the typical elements one expects from that concept. We also see the anticipated health issues, though perhaps not in the way we think we will, as Flyers attempts a curveball.

None of this succeeds. No self-respecting 1985 movie would let the hero lose, so Flyers lacks tension in regard to the competition.

As for the tragic plot beats, Flyers chickens out there. While it hints at these concerns, it lacks the conviction to follow through to the natural conclusion.

All of this feels very “1985”. Again, not every movie from that era ladles on the happy happy cheese and fails to embrace more daring choices, but Hollywood clearly shied away from more challenging fare.

Which leaves us with the simplistic mix of melodrama and inspirational sports fare we find with Flyers. Predictable and trite, the movie disappoints.

The Disc Grades: Picture B-/ Audio C+/ Bonus D-

American Flyers appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Because I trust Warner Archives, I assume Flyers offered an accurate depiction of the source, but man, it sure did provide a less than attractive image.

Sharpness varied. Much of the movie displayed reasonably good delineation, but it tended to seem a bit loose at times and never really offered great accuracy.

No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects materialized, and I saw no edge haloes. Grain seemed somewhat heavy but natural, and print flaws remained absent.

Colors leaned toward a red/brown feel much of the time, with some blue tossed in as well. The hues seemed adequate but not impactful.

Blacks appeared fairly deep and dense, while shadows offered acceptable clarity. This remained a more than watchable image but not one that stood out as memorable.

Expect similar thoughts about the movie’s ordinary DTS-HD MA 2.0 soundtrack. The soundscape lacked ambition but fell in line with what we normally got from circa 1985 flicks.

This meant decent stereo spread for music as well as occasional instances of effects from the right and left. Outside of the score/songs, though, much of the material felt fairly monaural.

Audio quality seemed dated but decent. Speech remained intelligible and reasonably natural, without edginess or other issues.

Music and effects both displayed passable accuracy but both lacked real range, so don’t expect much punch. Ultimately, the track seemed fine but unmemorable for something from 1985.

The disc includes the movie’s trailer but it lacks any other extras.

A mix of inspirational sports fare and character melodrama, American Flyers lacks depth or real impact. It follows predictable paths and never threatens to really engage the viewer. The Blu-ray comes with adequate picture and audio but it lacks bonus materials. This winds up as a mediocre product.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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