New football film, “When The Game Stands Tall,” hits theaters this weekend.
For someone who can’t tell you the difference between a quarterback … and anything else in football, “When The Game Stands Tall” was quite an exciting movie. The film tells the true story of Bob Ladouceur (played by Jim Caviezel), a high school football coach who leads his team at De Salle High School to 151 straight victories over 12 years. The movie really starts to pick up when tragedy strikes at the high school and the team finds themselves losing for the first time since they can remember. They are faced with the humiliation and pressure of not continuing the streak. But Bob has always taught his players that it’s not about the wins, it’s about the team and each other, a big challenge for the “streak” focused players to learn. Bob also faces pressure from home, as his wife wants him to accept a coaching offer from a college so he could spend more time with his family.
I haven’t seen many football movies–or games for that matter–but I honestly can say that each football game in this movie kept me on my toes and my heart pounding. Maybe it’s because in this particular movie the stakes were higher for each game. Not only would the team be losing a game, they would be letting down their legacy. That’s not even counting all the character development going into this thing. Sure, Chris Ryan would score another touchdown for the team, but would he be learning anything? Would he ultimately be letting the coach down or his dad (played by a very intense and convincing Clancy Brown) down?
To be honest, you can find a lot of the same clichés in this movie as with any inspirational movie where the characters have to overcome something, whether it’s “overworked dad who needs to spend more time with the family,” “hotshot player who puts others down,” “angsty teen who doesn’t know how to go on,” or “players need to realize there’s no ‘I’ in team.” But the movie puts so many of them together that, in a way, it becomes fresh; there’s a lot riding on each moment. And the movie also handles a lot of what could be cliché moments with creativity–such as taking the team to a physical therapy center for trauma victims to teach them gratitude.
The movie has surprisingly tender moments–and funny ones as well. You can’t help but root for these boys. It surprised no one–it was even expected–when the theater burst into happy, relief-filled applause after each touchdown.