My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys

  • 1991
  • Movie
  • PG
  • Drama

Earnest, sensitively acted, and brimming with homey sentiment, MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN COWBOYS seems to have been lifted out of a 1950s time capsule; we've traveled down this lonesome cowboy road before. After a steer gives him a nasty bruise, aging round-up star H.D. Dalton (Scott Glen) drags his battered torso back to his hometown. Taking stock of...read more

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Earnest, sensitively acted, and brimming with homey sentiment, MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN COWBOYS seems to have been lifted out of a 1950s time capsule; we've traveled down this lonesome cowboy road before.

After a steer gives him a nasty bruise, aging round-up star H.D. Dalton (Scott Glen) drags his battered torso back to his hometown. Taking stock of his life on and off the rodeo circuit, Dalton is chagrined to discover that his wandering ways have embittered those he left behind. Viewing their

father as incorrigible, his sister Cheryl (Tess Harper) and her husband Clint Hornby (Gary Busey) have deposited Jessie Dalton (Ben Johnson) in a nursing home where his only friend is the mentally confused Junior (Mickey Rooney). (They also have a sharp eye on Papa Dalton's property.) H.D. doesn't

care how difficult his father has become, but his sister asks him what right he has to breeze back into town and cast value judgments on her. Upon discovering that Cheryl has power of attorney over their father, H.D. is forced to re-evaluate his wanderlust.

Equally disturbed by H.D.'s return is former gal-pal Jolie Meadows (Kate Capshaw), who married a man on the rebound after H.D. hit the happy trail to the rodeo. Now widowed with children, she spurns H.D.'s advances until he shows signs of commitment. After freeing his father from the convalescent

home, H.D. realizes that he still has a troubled relationship with his ornery dad--their differences have become aggravated by Jessie's raging against aging. Although H.D. reacquaints himself with his father, and regains Jolie's heart, and even forges a relationship with Jolie's son Jud (Balthazar

Getty), can he resist the lure of the open road?

Retrained by his proud dad, H.D. enters a roundup contest with a $100,000 prize. Sneaking away from a hospital bed, Jessie arrives at the big event in time to see H.D. take the ride of his life on the same implacable bull who has already gored him. Thunderbolt the steer is vanquished, however,

and H.D. wins the championship loot that will enable him to care for his father and settle down permanently with Jolie and his ready-made family.

As MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN COWBOYS ambles along, no cliche along the lonesome cowpoke trail is left unexplored. Engrossing due to its strong performances, the film overcomes the triteness of its storyline and the plodding direction. In striving to create an autumn-of-your-years mood, veteran

director Stuart Rosenberg (COOL HAND LUKE, BRUBAKER) often misses the melancholy he's seeking and delivers only enervation. Nor is he helped by a repetitive screenplay that hammers home points over and over again as if we were experiencing each familiar truism for the first time. MY HEROES HAVE

ALWAYS BEEN COWBOYS feels like an old man's movie--a summing up, contemplative, but devoid of risk-taking and a little worn-out. Each element of the screenplay fits into its expected place; every plot development neatly dovetails into the next; surprise is anathema.

As a director of actors, however, Rosenberg cannot be faulted; he elicits finely shaded work from the entire ensemble. It's obvious that the cast cares about the simple souls they're portraying. Particularly in Glenn's thoughtful, intense performance the film's hackneyed rendering of these

small-town lives becomes moving. Due to his acting and the facility of the outstanding supporting players, we end up caring for this restless rodeo artist re-establishing his roots. Bucking the shortcomings in the overly familiar screenplay, they transform platitudes into occasionally searing

drama. (Profanity, adult situations.)

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  • Released: 1991
  • Rating: PG
  • Review: Earnest, sensitively acted, and brimming with homey sentiment, MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN COWBOYS seems to have been lifted out of a 1950s time capsule; we've traveled down this lonesome cowboy road before. After a steer gives him a nasty bruise, aging r… (more)

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