Football movies -- heck, all sports films -- that resonate are always about so much more than what goes on on the field and When the Game Stands Tall embodies that theory perfectly.
The true story follows the De La Salle High School football team and their incredible 151-game winning streak. That is a record for consecutive wins in any sport, pro or amateur. But, as teased in the When the Game Stands Tall trailer, our story picks up with only a few wins left to reach that 151-game mark.
As such, the film is not so much about the years of winning with no loss. It plants the audience firmly at the end of the streak and establishes what an astounding feat it is and why that is important. But, over half of our movie is going to be about what happens when they finally lose. As so many coaches have said before, winning is easy, losing builds character.
Can you imagine the mentality it takes to win again after losing when no team in a decade has beaten you?
That’s where true greatness is found, not only in the players who take the field, but in the coaches who lead them. When the Game Stands Tall could not have better actors embodying those leaders in Jim Caviezel and Michael Chiklis.
Caviezel is head coach Bob Ladouceur and Chiklis portrays assistant coach Terry Eidson. They are as fluid together, chemistry wise, as leads in a great romance. Here, the love is for the game of football and crafting young men into the finest grown men they can be.
As such, the story is riddled with cliches. They come at you faster than a quarterback’s bullet pass. But, this is a sports film and a true story. Many of the angles we’ve seen a million times in these movies (like when you watch Remember the Titans online) are repeated here in director Thomas Carter’s story. It’s no one’s fault, per se, that’s just the way these things played out.
Knowing that, When the Game Stands Tall is still a fun (and inspiring) ride. The young cast delivers as a team who has to grapple with fumbling -- so to speak -- the winning streak and what that would do to a group of young men where none are older than eighteen.
There is also a slew of what may seem like heavy-handed faith-based messages. But, again, this is a true story and De La Salle High School is a religious private school. It’s accurate for the landscape that screenwriter Scott Marshall Smith gleaned from Neil Hayes’ brilliant book.
As a true football fable, our When the Game Stands Tall review can point out, it’s no Rudy or Remember the Titans. But, it deserves to be in the same league.