Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

The wheel world breaks away

Cleveland Press August 18, 1979

The family is out of a television situation comedy rather than the house down the street. The plot is the familiar one about the underdog finally breaking through.

For most of the beginning of the film, "Breaking Away" resembles a television film, one you might turn off. Too bad, too, because once it gets over its early awkwardness it turns into a fairly enjoyable movie.

The film is about four high school friends who graduate with no where to go. They live in a college town and it's a pretty snobbish college.

That makes them outsiders, perennial outsiders as college classes come and go.

One of the quartet, Dennis Christopher, is into biking, has such a great admiration for Italian bikers that he assumes what he thinks is the accent, mannerisms and habits of his heroes.

This causes a conflict with his father (Paul Dooley) who doesn't want to hear operatic records or be served zucchini (or any other food ending in "ini") for supper.

As funny stuff, this gets stretched pretty thin.

There is more insight shown in the relationship of the four friends -- the way they've dropped out of life, their frustrations, their notions of being has-beens before they're out of their teens.

Complications develop when Christopher's Italian imitation leads a pretty girl at the college to think he's an exchange student, a mistake he encourages.

There is the eventual revelation, the conflict with the college crowd, the decision by those higher up to settle differences between the town boys and the students with a bike race.

Some of the early biking scenes are so much filler but the final race is thrilling enough. Even better is the gradual understanding between father and son.

But the good material is long in coming. There's only enough substance in "Breaking Away" to support a movie half its length.