Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Movie Review: "When the Game Stands Tall" (2014)

Movie"When the Game Stands Tall"
Director: Thomas Carter
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 55 minutes
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De La Salle High School holds the record for most consecutive football games won in the entire nation: 151 straight games. This film, inspired by true events, focuses on the lives of the players and the life of coach Bob Ladoucer (Jim Caviezel) leading up to their streak-breaking loss and the team's subsequent quest to regain glory. 

Where to begin, where to begin...

For being billed as a story inspired by true events, it doesn't seem inspirational or interesting enough to warrant a movie, let alone a 2 hour one. The movie starts by showing the team claiming its 151st straight victory in a championship game. Pretty good so far. After this point, not 5 minutes into the film, it takes a turn, and the rest of the movie continues to drag on very slowly through its run time and becomes a melodramatic, syrupy, pseudo-inspirational and very generic sports film.

It's a little bit hard to knock this movie, for what its worth, since many of the events surrounding the team really did happen. One of their teammates really did get shot and killed, Ladoucer really did have a heart attack, and many other events portrayed happened in reality, though the timetable of said events was moved up in an effort to make it seem more dramatic. On top of these real-life dramas, one of the main focal points of the film is the relationship between Ladoucer and his son Danny (Matthew Daddario), who is also on the football team. Their relationship is seemingly strained for no good reason and their problems seem quite trivial compared to other father/son relationships throughout the film. Unfortunately, this doesn't really go much of anywhere and barely gets resolved. Just because Danny hands Bob the game-winning football doesn't mean Bob is going to be there for his son any more or any less, especially since he obviously still has intentions of coaching for years to come. Right after Bob has his heart attack, while he is laying in a hospital bed and is lucky to be alive, his son somehow finds it appropriate to badger him about how he cannot coach the team anymore. He emphatically and quite callously storms out of the hospital room, leaving his mother Bev, played by Laura Dern, to blame Bob himself for not being around to father his children. When Bob is given a gloomy forecast for his recovery, Bev cannot contain her smile because he is going to be forced to stay home and be with his family. You almost feel bad for Bob since his family seems selfish as hell.

While the overall message of the film is a good one, there is no "I" in "team," but how many times has this message been turned into a movie? How many times has this message been turned into movie but executed better? The answer is COUNTLESS TIMES. It's so cliche it's not even funny. Beyond this, who really gives a hoot about the longest winning streak in HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL??? The answer should be no one! When sports movies are made, they usually focus on teams and players who are underdog stories, or teams and players who have the odds against them, not a team from a private school who is almost expected to win every single game because of their past record. Really, none of the experiences they go through (while some are heartbreaking) are that new, groundbreaking, or extraordinary, or really that inspirational at all. Who cares that they lost a game? It's only high school football and yet it is held up on a pedestal with great regard.

Whoever said this movie had nothing to do with religion obviously doesn't know what religion is. Since De La Salle is a Catholic private high school, much of this movie seems overly preachy, from crosses and crucifixes hanging in classrooms to Bible versus being quoted and interwoven throughout the film. There are many scenes in the movie where the situation at hand is turned into something "deeper" through the guise of religion. It feels like the audience is being blatantly preached to at a sermon, and the religious aspect is being inserted into the film where it seems out of place, such as a conversation outside of a Dick's Sporting Goods (we'll get into that in a second). It goes beyond the happenstance of the setting, and this may be off-putting to many viewers of different faiths.

Good product placements are done in such a way that they don't feel overt or in-your-face. This may as well have been a commercial for Dick's Sporting Goods, Gatorade, Nike, and/or Muscle Milk. The camera seems to hang just a little too long on logos placed in center frame on scoreboards, in locker rooms, and on t-shirts. Seriously, every. single. t-shirt. has a Nike logo on it. Most of the time, we don't notice such things, but this time, it was laughable. These products are also name-dropped within dialogue between characters and inserted into the movie lazily and obviously.

It may just be how the film was shot, but Jim Caviezel's character as a coach only seems to focus on brotherhood and compassion as a team after they are handed their first loss in 14 years. After they lose, his character gets wound up whenever anyone talks about winning again, or starting a new "streak," as it is called throughout the movie. We personally don't think Jim Caviezel is the actor you cast when you're looking for passion (except maybe "Passion of the Christ," *rim-shot*). He has a low-key acting style and doesn't ever seem passionate or happy about anything, showing almost no emotion throughout his performance. None of the acting really stands out and it isn't much better than your average made-for-TV film.

Really, there are only a few types of people who will probably enjoy this movie: 1) parents with kids in high school football; 2) kids who play football (as seen at our theater last night, there was an entire freakin' football team present for the screening); 3) De La Salle fans, former players, or members of that community; 4) football fanatics and those who love sports movies; and 5) the religiously devout. We don't happen to fall into any of these categories, so obviously this movie wasn't made for us, but it wasn't for a lack of trying. Even still, it's just not that good.

My Rating: 4/10
BigJ's Rating: 4/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 19%
Do we recommend this movie: No.
One year ago, we were watching: "The World's End"


  1. Meh this one looked pretty overly dramatic. I mean... I know it's mostly real and stuff but I wasn't really feelin' it from the previews. Jake wants to see it though. Meh, football movies!

    1. The previews weren't that enticing at all. We didn't really want to see this one and it was about what we expected. There are definitely better sports movies out there! Maybe you and Jake can catch a cheap showtime in the morning one day, it might be okay for $5-$7 bucks! :)