In honor of Super Bowl Sunday, I thought I'd post a movie review about gridiron glory:
Movie Title: When the Game Stands Tall
PG, 1 hour 55 minutes
- In a Nutshell: Inspired by a true football story and the book with the same title, viewers are reminded that there are more important things in life than winning some game. I always love it when movies based on true stories include footage from the real people at the end of the film. A clip of the real “Coach Lad” plays while the credits are rolling at the end, which explains the movie’s main idea. He says “Growing up is painful. It’s not easy. But that’s what our program is about, in case you haven’t figured it out. It ain’t about the football. It ain’t about scoring touchdowns. And it ain’t about the winning streak. It’s about a program moving you in a direction that will assist you and help you grow up…so when you take your place out in the world and out in society and out in our community you can be depended on.”
- There’s no “I” in team.
- It’s not about how you fall, but how you get back up that matters.
- Coach Lad always reminded the players that he didn’t expect them to play perfectly, but to give a perfect effort.
Things I liked:
- I was impressed with the coaches who had each of the players write down training goals and game goals on “Commitment Cards.” They reviewed them together before each game so that the teammates could help each other. What a great idea for success.
- I loved Jim Caviezel in The Count Of Monte Cristo In this role as Coach Ladouceur , it sometimes feels like he’s still playing Jesus in his most acclaimed role in The Passion Of The Christ Definitive Edition .
- The movie briefly spotlights a teen couple who take a “purity pledge” to save themselves for marriage.
- It was refreshing to see a coach and players freely talk about prayer and divine purpose, although critics say Coach Lad's pre-game pep-talks sound more like Christian sermons. It's entirely appropriate, I think, since the players attend a Catholic school. Besides, some high schools’ religion is football!
- I thought it was significant that the movie showed an obsessed dad (overacting Clancy Brown) who was really hard on his quarterback son (The Hunger Games Alexander Ludwig), saying “I want that record!” When he became abusive, the coach warned “He’s not going to get it with a broken rib.” Later, the dad yells to the coach’s wife (Laura Dern), “Your husband is costing my son his record!” to which she wisely, and softly says “My husband is turning your son into a man. You’re the only person who doesn’t see it.” While raising 4 sons, I saw a lot of obnoxious parents act like jerks towards their kids and their coaches. I thought the movie did a pretty good job pointing out that there are more important things than “the game.” Sports can do a great job helping kids develop truly important qualities like sportsmanship, dedication, discipline, teamwork, etc. Those characteristics are much more important than any score.
Things I didn’t like:
- I’ve always liked three-time Golden Globe winner Laura Dern ever since I first saw her in Jurassic Park . She has a certain rasp to her voice, but in this movie, her voice sounds even more hoarse and I wondered if she was fighting a cold the entire time. She was recently nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress in Wild .
- Some may not be interested in the crunching violence of football. Hey, this is a football movie.
- It’s pretty formulaic and predictable with clichéd characters written with very broad brush stokes, but it’s still inspiring.
- It's a good football movie, but it's not the greatest. See my list below for other football flicks that I thought did it better.
- “Love means you can count on me in good times and bad.” – Coach Ladouceur
- “Juniors, did you hear that? That is a perfect commitment card: big goals that stretch his abilities, but are doable when giving the perfect effort.” - Coach Ladouceur
- “We’re not asking you to be perfect on every play. What we are asking of you and what you should be asking of each other is to give a perfect effort from snap to whistle.” - Coach Ladouceur
- “Family isn’t just blood relatives. It’s anyone who loves you unconditionally.” – Coach Ladouceur
- “Don’t let a game define who you are. Let the way you live your lives do that.” – Assistant Coach Teddy Eidson (Michael Chiklis)
- “It’s not about the record. It’s about the team.” – player
- Do you know why they call me Buster?” - football player on the Long Beach Poly team
“Cuz you’re stupid enough to let them?” – De La Salle High School Spartan player
Tips for parents:
- I appreciated the many situations where the players and coaches could have used profanity, but softened their words with substitutes like“heck”, etc.
- This is a safe movie that the whole family can watch together. It includes many teachable moments that can spark good family discussion.
Did you know?
- De La Salle High didn’t win again until their 4th game, when they played Archbishop Mitty of San Jose, CA. They didn’t even play Long Beach Poly that season, as depicted in the movie.
- Film producer David Zelon loves inspiring sports comeback movies, such as Soul Surfer , which he previously produced.
- The entire movie was shot in only 41 days in New Orleans.
- Laura Dern's parents are actors Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern.
If you liked this game, here are some other football “feel-good” movies that I think you may enjoy even more: