Blue Chips

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Pete Bell (Nolte), a college basketball coach for the fictional Western University Dolphins, is under a lot of pressure. His team isn’t winning as often as it once did and his successful program needs to attract new star players and fast. But the brightest stars of the future — the so-called “blue-chip” prospects — are secretly being paid by other schools.

This practice is forbidden in the college game, but Pete is desperate after a losing season. A school booster, greedy “friend of the program” Happy (J. T. Walsh), will stop at nothing to land these star high school players for Western’s next season. This includes giving a Lexus to the gigantic Neon Boudeaux (O’Neal), a house and job to the mother of Butch McRae (Hardaway) and a tractor to the father of farmboy Ricky Roe (Matt Nover), as well as a bag filled with cash.

With sportswriter Ed (Ed O’Neill) suspecting a scandal, Pete continues to be contaminated by selfish demands from the players and a dirty association with the booster. His estranged wife (Mary McDonnell), a former guidance counselor, agrees to tutor Neon, who has below average grades, but she feels betrayed when Pete lies to her about the new athletes receiving illegal inducements to attend the school.

Pete comes to realize that one of his previous players, Tony, a personal favorite, had “shaved points” in a game of the previous season, conspiring to beat a gambling point spread. Pete is disgusted at what he and his program have become.

Western University has a big nationally televised game coming up versus Indiana, the #1 team in the country, coached by Bob Knight. After winning the game, Pete cannot bear the guilt of having cheated. At a press conference, he confesses to the entire scandal and resigns as head coach. Leaving the press conference and the arena, Pete walks past a small playground with kids playing basketball—he approaches, then helps coaching them.

An epilogue later reveals that the university would be suspended from tournament for three years. Pete did continue to coach, but at the high school level, Tony graduated (and passed TV) and played pro ball in Europe, Ricky Roe is injured and, as his father said, returned to run the family farm, and Neon and Butch dropped out of college when the scandal broke and now play in the NBA.

REVIEW:

Blue Chips is a film that showed the world that Shaquille O’Neal could do more than just slam a basketball and break down goals, but also he could theoretically act. The jury is still out on whether or not that’s an actual talent, but the guy is charismatic, you can’t deny him that, which is why he pops up in commercials, TV shows, movies, and commenting on games.

What is this about?

A college basketball coach knows his squad of underdogs can’t win without an infusion of new talent. After starting a national search for players, he promises the world two up-and-coming hoopsters – who prove to be worth every under-the-table payoff.

What did I like?

Moral. Not many sports movies deal with the negative ramifications of illegal recruiting. As a matter of fact, with the exception of a few that are specifically about it like Johnny Be Good, it is something of a taboo subject. I can’t really comment on college basketball, but in today’s college football, based on what I learned from watching ESPN, you sneeze wrong and NCAA will come down on you. I was happy to see that this film chose to not only show that there are consequences and also the conflict that Nick Nolte’s characters was going through.

Together. During this time, Penny Hardaway and Shaq were teammates on the Orlando Magic. It was some inspired casting to team them up in a film, or maybe that was some kind of team chemistry contract thing. At any rate, although it would have been nice to see them in more one on one scenes, beggars can’t be choosy, right?

More to life than basketball. This is one of those rare sports movies that doesn’t just film a bunch of flashy game scenes, but rather focuses on the life off the court. The players have their issues in class and in their personal lives and the coach not only has the heavy weight of recruiting on his shoulders, but also some kind of arrangement with his ex-wife, it isn’t made clear what that is, but it is certain they still have feelings for each other.

What didn’t I like?

Lecture. One review said that it not only took the joy out of watching college basketball for them, but also felt like a lecture on the ethics of what the sport had become. It is one thing to make a statement, but quite another to beat a dead horse, which is what this film seems to be doing more often than not.

Football can’t be touched. I’m sure we’ve all been to schools where the football players pretty much run the place, even during the offseason. If you’re from the south, you know that football is religion down here. There isn’t any football in this film, but there is a mention of how the team gets away with much worse things than what Nolte is doing and no one was able to touch them. The reporters seemed hell-bent on bringing down the basketball team, and just gave up on the football team. Does something seem not right about that, or is it just me?

Real or not. Sports movies have a habit of creating a series of fake teams, only to end up with the big game at the end against a big name school. In this case, it is Indiana University. I realize there may be some legal issues keeping them from using a slew of real schools, but it just seems out of place to be playing a bunch of fake schools and then one big school. At least The Waterboy mixed them up a little bit.

I think it is quite obvious what Blue Chips was meant to be, a vehicle for Shaq. As far as showing off a little bit of his acting chops, it accomplished that goal very well. However, I’m not so sure it did anything else it set out to do, other than lecture the audience. If I want to sit through that kind of thing, then I’ll watch a documentary. Still, this isn’t all that bad. No, it isn’t good and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, but it is an average watch if you’re just looking for something to play while you’re doing something else.

3 out of 5 stars

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One Response to “Blue Chips”

  1. […] are the kind of things he should be taking, rather than the serious stuff like he started with in Blue Chips or the failed superhero experiment, Steel, and let’s not bring up some of his other failed […]

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