Running Time: 1 hour 55 minutes
Coach Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel) has presided over the greatest streak in the history of football, with his De La Salle Spartans winning 151 games in a row. Coach Lad has tried to instill in his players a sense of dedication, faith and family hoping that he will be preparing them for a life after football. But the program is rocked by a series of tragedies and when the new season starts the Spartans stumble out of the gate, losing their first two games and the streak that has become their identity. A showdown against the powerful Long Beach Poly, the #1 ranked team in the country is looming and Coach Lad can only hope that the lessons he has taught his kids with be enough to help them overcome the longest odds they have ever faced.
Sports movies are one of the most reliable ways to get me emotional and football movies especially hit close to home. When the Game Stands Tall, despite suffering from a terrible title, does a respectable job of telling its story and tugging on the requisite heartstrings. While not as inspiring as Rudy, as poignant as Remember the Titans or as gritty as Friday Night Lights this movie has its moments. The football action is well shot and the thump of the collisions resonate in the theatre. I also appreciated that many of the actors in the film believably pass as high school kids. There are some nice emotional notes that are played with a light enough touch that you don’t feel manipulated by the script.
The film loses a little momentum in its scenes with Coach Lad and his wife (Laura Dern) who comes off as disapproving and sour. She lectures him when he coaches, she lectures him when he doesn’t, it is an unflattering portrayal of a real person. I also thought Michael Chiklis was very underused as an assistant coach. You should also be prepared for a fairly heavy barrage of overtly Christian values, and while that was fine with me, I can easily imagine it being a little much for some people. There are better movies covering similar territory, but this is story I’m glad they decided to tell. B-