Inspired by true events, (that means embellished), When the Game Stands Talltells the story of the extraordinary high school football team that went on a streak of over 150 wins over twelve years, and the coach who helped make it happen.
The film starts at the end, the twelfth championship game in the streak of wins, as coach Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel) gives his players a pep talk. This is the final game for the seniors and juniors are both excited and nervous at the prospect of taking this legendary team on their shoulders the coming year. Among those of the upcoming generation are Ladoceur’s son Danny (Matthew Daddario) and living legend (though fictional character) Chris Ryan (Alexander Ludwig). Michael Chiklis is assistant coach Terry Eidson and Laura Dern plays Bob’s wife, Bev.
Surprisingly little of this film actually revolves around football games. Instead, it is about Ladouceur, his family, his team, and the impact they all have on one another. Taking the approach that by first giving his players the foundation to be upstanding people they will do better in life, on and off the field, Ladouceur instills the Biblical principals he holds close, in the classroom and in the locker room. These principals, beliefs, and values are both tested and needed when unexpected tragedy hits, as well as personal events that make Ladouceur reevaluate how he treats his life and family.
This is a Christian Hallmark card of a sports film that tries to pretend it’s not. Faith is a central theme, but it pretends it is a sports movie without really embracing that fact, despite mentioning it in a subtle-not-subtle way over and over. Perhaps it is going for the whole not being preachy approach, but instead just feels sneaky and unfulfilling at the same time.
There’s nothing specifically wrong with the story. It’s a nice story about nice people with nice values I can get behind. It’s inspirational, uplifting, and has an actual positive message that doesn’t feel like it has an ulterior motive behind it. The cast is perfectly competent, if lacking much bravado. There’s just not much to make more than some nice stuff on screen though. Instead of benefiting from truth being stranger/more interesting/etc. than fiction though, it all falls flat, victim of a script that doesn’t stray too far off the approved formula of inspirational sports drama guidelines.
I’m all for family friendly films with positive messages, especially when they celebrate the life of someone who seemingly got it right. It’s just a shame that those types of films aren’t more often given the attention to actually making them well done and interesting as the films on the other end of the spectrum.
Mrs. Hamster says:
“I felt like it was trying REALLY hard to make me care, and that made me not care.”
My rating: Two out of five hats
When the Game Stands Tall streaks into 2,673 theaters, August 22