×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Program

Director/co-writer David S. Ward ("Major League") may find baseball has been better to him than football, as the signals get crossed in this all-over-the-field sports drama. Attractive leads and the subject matter may generate some interest from gridiron enthusiasts, but Disney still doesn't figure to light up the box office scoreboard much with this recruit.

With:
Coach Winters - James Caan
Autumn - Halle Berry
Darnell Jefferson - Omar Epps
Joe Kane - Craig Sheffer
Camille - Kristy Swanson
Bud-Lite - Abraham Benrubi
Alvin Mack - Duane Davis
Bobby Collins - Jon Maynard Pennell
Steve Lattimer - Andrew Bryniarski
Ray Griffen - J. Leon Pridgen II

Director/co-writer David S. Ward (“Major League”) may find baseball has been better to him than football, as the signals get crossed in this all-over-the-field sports drama. Attractive leads and the subject matter may generate some interest from gridiron enthusiasts, but Disney still doesn’t figure to light up the box office scoreboard much with this recruit.

“The Program” starts in a fourth-down situation by being a sports movie with virtually no one for whom the audience can root — a major drawback, no matter how hackneyed those “Rocky”-ized finishes have become. Instead, Ward and co-writer Aaron Latham seek to indict big-time college football through a collection of cliches (money-doling boosters, steroid abuse, academic negligence , shady recruiting practices) and still want us to care about whether these players and coaches win the big game.

The action centers around fictitious Eastern State U., whose coach (James Caan, top-billed in a relatively minor role) is coming off two subpar seasons and feeling the heat to turn things around.

In addition to a Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback in Joe Kane (Craig Sheffer), ESU lands a promising young small-town running back (Omar Epps, from “Juice”) with his sights set on a starting job.

Pursuing those players’ romantic liaisons (with Kristy Swanson and Halle Berry, respectively) as a soapy sidebar to all the bashing and crunching, “The Program” doesn’t develop either part of the story very well; indeed, those two facets keep colliding off each other, diffusing the football angle and any concern as to how ol’ ESU performs on the field.

Although he’s supposed to engender sympathy as the son of an uncaring alcoholic, Joe comes off as a self-centered boor so reckless it’s hard to understand why Camille (Swanson, last seen skewering the undead in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) puts up with him, while the pompous Darnell (Epps) isn’t particularly endearing, either.

The strongest characters toil in smaller roles, particularly Duane Davis as a bruising linebacker intent on making the pros and Andrew Bryniarski as a steroid-injecting behemoth who personifies the danger of a win-at-all-costs mentality.

Yet if there’s an alternative to that approach, you won’t find it here, with Caan’s gruff coach clearly willing to look the other way at any excess short of murder as long as it keeps him in his job. That may make for good copy in a Sports Illustrated expose, but watching the team’s various offenses doesn’t spur much support.

The football scenes themselves prove reasonably convincing, although the use of slow-motion is far too extensive, robbing the sport of its collision-oriented excitement and speed.

Most of the focus is on Sheffer, whose character is too enigmatic, while Epps , Berry and Swanson gamely try to pull for extra dramatic yardage but can’t do much with their underwritten roles.

Interestingly, several real college powers lent their monikers and uniforms to this unflattering portrait, which from that perspective most closely resembles the basketball-themed 1977 Robby Benson starrer “One on One.”

Aside from the slo-mo woes, technical crew and cast convincingly capture the football scenes and college environs.

The Program

Production: A Buena Vista Pictures release of a Touchstone Pictures and the Samuel Goldwyn Co. presentation. Produced by Samuel Goldwyn Jr. Executive producers, Duncan Henderson, Tom Rothman. Directed by David S. Ward. Screenplay, Ward, Aaron Latham.

Crew: Camera (Technicolor), Victor Hammer; editors, Paul Seydor, Kimberly Ray; music, Michel Colombier; production design, Albert Brenner; art direction, Carol Winstead Wood; set design, Harold Fuhrman; set decoration, Kathe Klopp; costume design, Tom Bronson; sound (Dolby), Robert J. Anderson, Jr.; assistant director, Josh McLaglen; second unit director, Allan L. Graf; casting, Lynn Stalmaster. Reviewed at the Avco Center Cinema, L.A., Sept. 21, 1993. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 114 min.

With: Coach Winters - James Caan
Autumn - Halle Berry
Darnell Jefferson - Omar Epps
Joe Kane - Craig Sheffer
Camille - Kristy Swanson
Bud-Lite - Abraham Benrubi
Alvin Mack - Duane Davis
Bobby Collins - Jon Maynard Pennell
Steve Lattimer - Andrew Bryniarski
Ray Griffen - J. Leon Pridgen II

More Film

  • Elton John'Lion King' Film Premiere and

    With New 'Lion King' Tune, Elton John May Compete Against Self for Song Oscar

    Elton John is going to face some stiff competition in this year’s Oscars race: Elton John. He’ll have two tunes in competition for the Academy Award for best original song this year. The just announced track listing for the “Lion King” soundtrack reveals he and lyricist Tim Rice did write a new end-titles number for [...]

  • Constance WuInStyle Awards, Arrivals, Los Angeles,

    Constance Wu to Star in 'Goodbye, Vitamin' Adaptation for Universal (EXCLUSIVE)

    Universal Pictures has optioned the rights to “Goodbye, Vitamin,” the 2017 debut novel from Rachel Khong, with Constance Wu attached to star, sources tell Variety. Dylan Clark will produce for his Universal-based Dylan Clark Productions with Jennifer Yee McDevitt adapting the novel. Wu will also executive produce. “Goodbye, Vitamin” follows Wu’s character, Ruth Young, who [...]

  • Ann Sarnoff BBC

    Warner Bros. Taps BBC Studios Americas Chief Ann Sarnoff as CEO (EXCLUSIVE)

    Warner Bros. has tapped BBC Studios Americas president Ann Sarnoff as its new CEO, a surprise pick that is sure to shakeup the venerable studio. Sarnoff becomes the first woman to head Warner Bros. in its nearly 100-year history. She was under the radar during WarnerMedia’s search for a successor to lead the studio following [...]

  • Christian Gabela

    Gaumont Appoints 'El Chapo' Executive Producer to VP of International Co-Productions

    Gaumont has appointed Christian Gabela, the executive producer of “El Chapo,” as vice president of international TV co-productions. Gabela’s role will be to manage and expand the company’s TV distribution and co-production partnerships in key territories internationally with a focus on Latin America. Gaumont is currently developing the series “El Presidente,” its first Latin American [...]

  • The Peanut Butter Falcon

    'The Peanut Butter Falcon,' 'For Sama' Win Top Awards at Nantucket Film Festival

    NANTUCKET, Mass. — Adventure drama “The Peanut Butter Falcon” and Syria documentary “For Sama” emerged as the top winners at the 24th annual Nantucket Film Festival. The festival, which concludes today, as ever put the emphasis on screenwriters and emerging talents. Director Paul Downs Colaizzo’s Sundance hit “Brittany Runs a Marathon” had a number of [...]

  • Bill Murray

    Bill Murray to Receive Lifetime Achievement Award From Wes Anderson at Rome Festival

    The Rome Film Festival will celebrate Bill Murray with its lifetime achievement award, which will be presented to him by Wes Anderson. Anderson, who has directed Murray in some of his most iconic roles, most notably in “The Royal Tenenbaums,” and in several other films such as “The Darjeeling Limited,” “Moonrise Kingdom” and “Grand Budapest [...]

  • CLOSE QUARTERS – In Disney and

    'Toy Story 4': 5 Takeaways From Opening Weekend

    Despite arriving below expectations, “Toy Story 4” did huge business this weekend with ticket sales surpassing $118 million in North America. As sequels hailing from beloved franchises continue to flounder at the box office, Disney and Pixar’s cartooned fourquel is a much-needed win for the movie business. It now ranks among the top debuts for [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content