''My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys'' uses elements from the ''Rocky'' and ''Karate Kid'' movies, combines those with plot turns used in ''Dad'' and does surprisingly well with all. If the new film doesn't send you out of the theater cheering, it should make you feel better than you did before you saw it.
It has its moments of realism, domestic and otherwise. Scott Glenn plays the rodeo rider who returns home when he is seriously injured. Being the kind of guy he is, the man who will always be a boy, he expects to find all things as they were.
They are not. Dad, for one, is in a nursing home, and the girl H.D. (Glenn) had left behind is now the widowed mother of two growing children.
The woman's son is giving his mother fits but is not all that bad. Actually, mother faces more trouble with the returnee. She had loved him, but he left town and never looked back.
Being one of those women who continue to do the wrong things all their lives, she falls for him again. She is, however, guarded about it. She has seen something of life and knows that nothing is what it seems.
On his return, H.D. is annoyed when he discovers that his father has been put in a nursing home, and when his sister and brother-in-law begin talking about selling the family homestead, the rodeo vet kidnaps his dad from the home.
All the important questions are answered. Who's going to take care of the old guy? What are you going to do about his irascible personality? What are you going to do when he continues to have those ''accidents'' that some older people have?
And he has them. They are not serious, but they are heavy enough to suggest that the man's son has taken on a demanding load.
The ''Rocky'' business comes about when H.D. has to make money fast, and the only way to do so is enter a local rodeo contest. His dad trains him, and both profit from this workout. Dad seems more alert, and H.D. seems to know what he wants to do, at least for a time.
When the film ends, you're not sure these people are ever going to make it, but like all of us, will get up off the floor and try again.
The performances are good, all of them. Ben Johnson is the old man, Kate Capshaw is the widow who responds, again, to the rodeo rider's line, Tess Harper is the rider's sister, and Gary Busey is her husband.
Sometimes, these people sound a mite sophisticated. Most of the time, these people act and talk about the way you'd expect.
''My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys'' is showing at local theaters.
''My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys''
** A rodeo rider, recuperating from a serious injury, returns home to find that things have changed.
CAST: Scott Glenn, Ben Cooper, Tess Harper, Kate Capshaw
DIRECTOR: Stuart Rosenberg
RATING: PG (language)
RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes