American Flyers follows two brothers as they race together in a bicycle competition while confronting their turbulent past with their mother and deceased father. with some great characters and a ton of McDonald's food, this '80s film hits most of its marks. The new 1080p HD video transfer and DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio mix are outstanding, but the lack of extras is unfortunate. Still, this comes Recommended for early Kevin Costner and Rae Dawn Chong fans.
The man, the myth, the legend - Kevin Costner is synonymous with sports movies and westerns. Before the likes of Yellowstone, Costner starred in several baseball films (Field of Dreams, Bull Durham) and even some movies centered around golf (Tin Cup). But in 1985, before he reached superstardom, he was the lead in a bicycle racing film titled American Flyers with an all-star crew behind him. Everyone is still waiting for Costner to make that pro-wrestling film the world wants to see. American Flyers checks most of the boxes that house those Disney family-drama sports films throughout the years and serves as a great stepping stone for Costner's career. Despite some hilarious McDonald's product placement that rivals Mac and Me, the almost forgotten sports film American Flyers is a gem from the past that is always fun to revisit.
Most of these inspirational sports films follow a simple formula that navigates overcoming obstacles both physically and emotionally, big music swells, redemption, and love. American Flyers follows these steps well but unfortunately can get lost in its own melodrama inside tangents of co-starring characters. Not only that, the blatant product placement of Mcdonald's is so outlandish it becomes hysterical. There isn't a music video per see like the one in Mac and Me, but it comes close. But with some wonderful performances from a young Costner, Rae Dawn Chong, Jennifer Grey, Robert Townsend (Meteor Man), and John Amos - American Flyers is still a joy to watch almost forty years later.
Those spots-inspiring obstacles come in the form of the Sommers family, where brothers Marcus (Costner) and David (David Grant) have finally reunited after a long stint of not talking with one another after their father died some years ago. Their mother wasn't exactly kind about it either and didn't treat anyone well during that turbulent time. It just so happens, that their father died of a cerebral aneurysm, which may run in the family. Both brothers being avid bicycle riders and even competing decide to give it one last hurrah after some disheartening news. From here, American Flyers takes a road trip to Colorado along with some hitchhikers and friends as the brothers confront their past and what lies ahead on their literal and metaphorical bike paths.
Director John Badham (Saturday Night Fever, Dracula, Short Circuit, Stake-Out, War Games) delivered some heart-pounding action sequences around the rough terrain of the rocky mountains bike race while taking it easy on the more tender moments of reflection and melodrama. Steve Tesich's screenplay (World According To Garp) allows for those emotional moments to truly shine, but some of the cheese of the mid-'80s gets in the way of something more serious, along with some of those smaller characters stories that go nowhere. It's interesting to note that Gareth Wigan produced this film as well and blended his skills from the Star Wars and Alien franchise here as well. It was a treasure trove of big-name crew filmmakers who came aboard this small dramatic film about family and bike racing.
American Flyers still hits some good heartstrings and follows that tried and true pattern that Disney films journey into, but somewhere the filmmakers tried to add a little too much inside this simple story, making it more convoluted than it really needed to be. At least the film will make you hungry for a Big Mac if nothing else. That being said though, this film has stood the test of time and is wonderful to watch after all these years.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
American Flyers rides its way to Blu-ray via Warner Archive. The sole Blu-ray Disc is housed inside a hard, blue plastic case. There is no cardboard sleeve. The artwork features a blue and red illustrated image of the main bike rider. There is no insert.
American Flyers comes with a great brand new 1080p HD transfer. According to the Warner Archive, this was a fresh 2K scan from the original 35mm print and the results are impressive.
The color palette retains its chipper, bold colors, especially when outside in the sun. Greens, blues, yellows, and more primary colors look amazing here. The darker sequences at night time or of the mountains and rough terrain show inky black levels that rarely bleed. The detail reveals nice closeups of the actor's faces and textures in their clothing in well-lit scenes. Other darker sequences don't reveal as much detail, due to the original source.
There's some fluctuation grain that crops up from time to time, but again, this is from the source material and never hinders the viewing experience really, with maybe the exception of a couple of lower-lit scenes. There really is no evidence of specks or dirt, meaning Warner cleaned this print up nicely, and there are no instances of banding or aliasing either.
This release comes with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track that sounds great. It's a rather quiet audio mix until the big bike racing sequences commence. It's here where the sound effects become robust and loud, utilizing every bike noise and natural element in the scene. There is a nice separation in each noise that is well-balanced with full dynamic sound around each corner. The sounds of the other racers are fantastic as well. The score and song cues always lighten up the sound design and the dialogue is clean, clear, and easy to follow.
Unfortunately, a two-minute trailer is the only extra included here.
American Flyers is still a great film some forty years later. The performances from Costner and co. are fantastic to watch and the story itself of family, redemption, and, bicycle competition is a ton of fun. Even the cheesy product placement and side stories are easy to get through. Warner Archive delivers a wonderful video and audio presentation, but this disc lacks bonus features. Still, this comes Recommended!