Movie Review: When the Game Stands Tall

I love sports. Most people do. Therefore, it seems fair to assume that people love sports films. Remember the Titans is a personal favorite of many.

When the Game Stands Tall faces the same challenge as many sports films. Constructing a sports film without clichés and developing the emotional impact without unraveling the structure of the story is harder than it seems. Sincere emotion can be hard to convey by relatively inexperienced actors, but with sports films incorporating a lengthy list of characters, some unknown actors have to step in. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. When the Game Stands Tall carries some of each.

Character writing constricts some of the propulsion this film could have had and it’s a shame because director Thomas Carter’s sports dedication had some of the gears running smoothly. Critics have berated Jim Caviezel’s depiction of De La Salle coach Bob Ladouceur, but I didn’t find his work worthy of the badgering. Do I know Ladouceur as well as I’d like to know perhaps one of the greatest coaches of all time? Certainly not. If that’s what you’re looking for, look somewhere else. With that said, I know some of the traits and values Ladouceur teaches and carries with him. I can say what gets him up in the morning and what his motivations for coaching are. Those principles, like preaching family, teamwork and humility, are part of this film’s overall message and so given the treatment it was trying to dish out, Caviezel’s sketch works. This isn’t a film looking to establish Oscar-worthy characters and I think critics should take that into consideration.

This film isn’t about the players and coaches. It’s more about what football means to people. I mentioned this in a previous sports post, but what sports mean to fans is much more than competition. It’s about the heart you put into it. It’s about what and who you’re playing for. It’s about the will to win. Sports transcend far past the field of play. The same values transfer over to your real life and how you handle yourself with other people. That’s what Ladouceur and this team are trying to say. It’s not always about winning, setting records and being the best. It’s about the team and the guy next to you. That’s the note this team hit right and the one that they prioritized.

The acting is decent all things considered but no one really stands out as an exceptional player in the film. It furthers the film’s theme of teamwork however, sacrificing individuality for the betterment of everyone.

Given all this film succeeds at doing, the flaws are more prominent here because nothing about When the Game Stands Tall really jumps out at you. Without an attention-grabbing character or plot anchor, this film’s average language and juvenile attempts at dramatic lines protrude farther than normal. When something misses the mark, you notice. It can’t be shrouded over because of ongoing questions in your mind or suspenseful anticipation. This movie thrives by going moment-by-moment and so if any points miss, it drags a bit. There are some characters introduced in the beginning we have the want to learn more about but never get to.

The football sequences are well done but not exceptional. Some sequences I thought were sloppily edited and underdone.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Guardians of the GalaxyDawn of the Planet of the ApesTransformers: Age of ExtinctionJack ReacherGodzilla)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Tears of the SunEdge of TomorrowThe Amazing Spider-Man 2Young GunsCloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too.(Black Hawk DownRed Dawn(2012)MaleficentRise of the Planet of the ApesTransporter 2)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (RubberHansel and Gretel: Witch HuntersAnchorman: The Legend of Ron BurgundyThe TransporterSpeed)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (The Expendable 3HomefrontG.I. Joe: RetaliationVantage PointThe Starving Games)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesBilly MadisonA Haunted House300: Rise of an EmpireCowboys and Aliens)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (CenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The GreyX-Men: Days of Future PastThor: The Dark WorldThe Sum of All Fears)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (GallowwalkersTucker & Dale vs. EvilSafeWatchmenClash of the Titans)

My score for When the Game Stands Tall: 75.

I don’t question the will that When the Game Stands Tall exhibits, only the sincerity of its heart because on a few occasions I don’t feel it. Still a solid sports film I wouldn’t mind revisiting though.

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