Thursday, January 7, 2016

Woodlawn blends football with faith

Are you ready for some football?   The Superbowl is coming up soon, so I thought I'd review a football movie you may have missed when it hit theaters a few months ago.

Movie Title:     Woodlawn

Grade:  A-

Rating:  PG, 2 hours 3 minutes

In a Nutshell:    Based on a true story, Woodlawn High School’s glory emerges out of faith during the race wars in the 1960’s and 70’s. Directed by siblings Jon and Andrew Erwin, this film creates a powerful mixture of religion and gridiron drama.     

This is one of the better Christian movies I’ve seen in awhile.  It’s kind of like a Sunday School lesson with some football added in.  But it’s a really good Sunday School lesson. 
We’re told by the narrator, “Something’s bigger than football, bigger than winning.”  Sean Astin’s character (Hank) explains, “This is what happens when God shows up.”

Uplifting theme: 
  •  The movie begins with a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
  • “Some call what happened here a miracle, and there is only one explanation, only one way any of this could have happened.” – Coach Gerealds  (Nic Bishop)
  •  “Rise up!” – preacher (DeVon Franklin)
  • “Believe.  No fear.” – written on one of the player’s helmets
  • “Adversity is the crucible of greatness.” – Coach Gerelds

Things I liked:
  • Great sweeping music by Paul Mills.  Sometimes it’s a bit overdone for the moment, but I still really enjoyed it.
  • Football fans will get to see some cool plays and crunches.  I’m always amazed how they film those scenes.
  • I love the demonstration of the candles in the stadium.  Change can begin with only one person.  Expect to see Christians holding up 1 finger often.
  • We tend to see the same actors in Christian movies, but this film introduces us to a lot of new faces, including Nic Bishop, who plays a likeable Coach Tandy Gerelds and the fantastic Caleb Castille, who plays Tony Nathan.
  • I love Sean Astin in anything.  (How could you not love Mr. Samwise Gamgee from Lord of the Rings?)
  • Jon Voight and Sherri Shepherd play small roles, but are both nice additions.
  • The relationships that are built are sweet and inspiring.  You care about the characters and their journey and growth.
  • The “Jesus Revolution” really was featured in Time Magazine.  The very end of the movie shows footage from the famous stadium event that started it all, as well as an invitation to join the movement, listing dates in 2016 with websites for more information.  One thing I really admire about Christian movies lately is that they leave audiences with a call to action.

Things I didn’t like:
  • It’s definitely heavy on the preaching side.
  • It’s fairly predictable, but still stirring.

Interesting lines:
  • “A time and a place for everything.  Ain’t that what the good book says?” – Paul Bryant (Jon Voight)
  • “Winning fixes just about everything, doesn’t it?” – Coach Gerelds
  • “Let me tell you something Jesus said: ‘I am the way.  I am the truth.  I am the light.’ And that means something to me, because I let it mean something to me.” – Hank
  • “I’m asking you to choose Jesus.  Can you do that?  Will you do that?” – Hank
  • “What just happened?” – Coach Gerelds
  • “I just let an untrained religious nut convert the whole team.  The whole team.” – Coach Gerelds
“Is that good or bad?” –  Debbie (Virginia Williams)
“I don’t know.” – Coach Gerelds
  • “Why don’t you all go out there and show me what you believe.” – Coach Gerelds
  • “Maybe God is testing us to see if our commitment is real, not just to win football games.” – Hank
  • “When you play for yourself, you can be great, but when you play for something higher than yourself, something extraordinary can happen.” – Hank
  • “I believe in what I can see.” – Coach Gerelds
“With all respect Coach, you better start looking around.” – Banks Assistant Coach (Danny Vinson)
“What is more important than winning football games?  You are.”  - Coach Gerelds
  • “Do you believe in miracles?” – customer in insurance store
“Yes, I do.  I am one.” – Coach Gerelds
  •  National Geographic wrote about the big game that’s featured in this movie as being “undeniably spiritual, supernatural even.” 

Tips for parents:   

  • Birmingham bombings are mentioned in the beginning to show the terrible state of race relations that existed in 1970.  Young children and even teens may not know about those historical, turbulent times in Alabama.
  • You might need to explain the principle of “separation of church and state” that this movie discusses.
  • No profanity.  How refreshing.
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