It was the worst of times, particularly for high school football player Jack Dundee (Robin Williams), who dropped a title-winning pass against Bakersfield. That was twelve years earlier but the citizens of small-town Taft, California won’t let him forget about it. Jack is trying to get on with his life. Yet, he still lives in a perpetual flashback, reliving that fumble. Now the Vice president of one of his father-in-law’s banks, the older man (Donald Moffat) won’t let a visit go by without slipping in a mocking reference to that fateful day. Jack takes secret breaks in a back room to run Super 8 footage of his moment of shame; it’s his favorite topic at home, to the endless dismay of his wife Elly (Holly Palance), and he talks about it incessantly with the amiable town prostitute, Darla (Margaret Whitton), who acts as a therapist of sorts for Jack.
Finally, having reached his breaking point, Jack decides to attempt the impossible. He wants to reassemble both high school teams and play the game again. Not only for him but to lift the town out of its lethargy. Elly is so sick of football talk that she kicks Jack out of the house. The locals (made up of well-known character actors such as M. Emmet Walsh, R.G. Armstrong and Dub Taylor, are all in top form) take up the issue at the Caribou Lodge weekly meeting, where there are a lot of mixed feelings. Taft doesn’t want to be embarrassed again.
Jack’s best buddy and Taft’s former quarterback Reno Hightower (Kurt Russell), feels he has as much to lose as Jack has to gain. Unlike Jack, Reno’s reputation remained intact. He lost the game but remained the best quarterback in the history of Taft High School. Reno enjoys his status and is reluctant to endanger it. Besides he’s feeling embittered, because his wife Gigi (Pamela Reed) is threatening to leave him to pursue a singing career in Los Angeles.
With his heavy framed specs and his hair combed back, Robin Williams makes for a funny football hero (would we expect any less?) Kurt Russell looks great in grease-stained jeans and a plaid shirt-jacket, his hair long and undisciplined, a cigarette dangling from his mouth. A lot of the humor is reminiscent of the Preston Sturges films of the 1940’s, though decidedly less manic. As I do with most Robin Williams movies, I’m sad that we’ll never see him in a new movie again, but thrilled that we have him in as many films as we do.
While The Best of Times cant be considered among the best of Robin’s work, its well worth a look for his fans.
The Best of Times is presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio from a 2022 master. Softness is minimal, showing up in just the occasional shot. Digital noise reduction doesn’t appear to be an issue. The natural film grain resolves nicely. Clarity and detail are good throughout. Skin tones are natural and offer clear facial features. Blacks are deep and inky, with only a few moments of brief crush. Kino has delivered another strong presentation that should please viewers.
The DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track offers a nice listening experience for this dialogue heavy film. vocals are clean, clear and concise. This front heavy mix offers pleasing fullness during action scenes on the football field. There are no signs of age or other anomalies.
English SDH subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Audio Commentary with Director Roger Spottiswoode and Screenwriter Ron Shelton
- Trailer #1 (HD, 1:47)
- Trailer #2 (HD, 2:15)
- Screen legends Robin Williams (Mrs
- Doubtfire) and Kurt Russell (The Thing) star in this winning comedy about life, hope, and getting even
- In 1972, underdog Taft High challenged their meanest rival, Bakersfield, to the annual football game
- But when Jack “Butterfingers” Dundee (Williams) dropped the ball instead of making the big play, Taft was defeated and star quarterback Reno Hightower (Russell) has never let him live it down
- Now, 13 years later, Dundee wants the chance to redeem himself, no matter what it takes