Not this movie, however. Screenwriter Angelo Pizzo seems to be aiming for a pigskin version of Hoosiers, which he also wrote. But while Hoosiers had a feel for the plainness and meanness of small-town life, Rudy seems to have reverted to some raccoon-coated view of college.
O.K., so Hoosiers was cynically manipulative, too. At least it had quirky performances by Gene Hackman and Dennis Hopper to help it along. Rudy has only Astin, a gently likable if guileless actor who spends much of the movie in a freeze-dried trance, his eyes big and liquid, his jaw slack. The real-life Rudy was a pest of unparalleled persistence. He pestered his way into Notre Dame, he pestered his way onto the football team and then pestered Pizzo into writing a script about him. The role could have been written for the boyishly avid style of Michael J. Fox, who, alas, may finally have been pensioned off from playing unformed young men.
Watching Astin's shameless attempts to snuggle into our hearts brings to mind one of Groucho's lines in Horse Feathers: "Baravelli, you've got the brain of a four-year-old boy, and I bet he was glad to get rid of it."