One on One (1977)

“They’re trying to take my athletics scholarship away from me — the bastards!”

Synopsis:
After winning a full scholarship to a university in Los Angeles, high school basketball star Henry Steele (Robbie Benson) finds himself struggling to succeed.

Genres:

Review:
Listed as a Sleeper in the back of Peary’s book, this Robbie Benson vehicle (he also co-wrote the script) offers all the standard cliches of every sports flick you’ve ever seen: an underdog who desperately wants to make it big struggles valiantly to succeed before scoring major points in the final “big game” (whoops! I gave it away). Yet it’s also a bravely cynical look at the corruption so rampant in the world of college sports: Henry is offered an all-expenses-paid scholarship (despite his limited academic abilities), a car, a tutor to help him pass his classes, a well-paying sinecure, and two free passes to each home game (which he’s able to sell for a whopping $300 each). Yet as soon as the tables turn — and the powers-that-be decide he’s no longer worthy star material — he finds himself fighting against the very forces which once buoyed his success. There are no surprises in One on One (again, my apologies for giving the ending away!), but getting to the final triumphant scene of this movie seems to be the whole point of its narrative journey.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Robbie Benson’s sincere performance as Henry
  • A scathing glimpse at corruption in the NCAA
  • Melanie Griffith in a small role as the duplicitous hitchhiker Benson picks up in L.A.

Must See?
No. While this is an enjoyable little sleeper, it’s only must-see viewing for hardcore Robbie Benson fans.

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