Like all films, yes, it is a metaphor for life and what sort of person will we be when our “game” stands tall.
When the Game Stands Tall
There have been many sports films based on monumental achievements; the underdog student making the team, the down and out team winning the big game, overcoming racism, temperaments, playing conditions and more. What is unique about WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL is how it focuses on life both on and off the field. Like all films, yes, it is a metaphor for life and what sort of person will we be when our “game” stands tall.
The De La Salle High School Spartans are a football team from Northern California. Under Head Coach Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel) they went on a 151 game winning streak that covered a decade and shattered all High School records. Most people around that area could not remember what it was like to lose. So when they did lose it hit everyone hard; everyone really but Coach Ladouceur. For him all those years were about teaching his players to be better men once they were off the field. He didn’t care about the streak as much as how he impacted his payers lives. The movie begins when the streak ends. And that is the heart and soul of the story.
If the film had been about the 151 wins we may shrug and move on. Though impressive it doesn’t make watching win after win entertaining. What grabs the attention is how the players and the town as a whole deal with the loss; and how consumed they are with starting a new streak. The incoming seniors seem the worst. They are riding the coattails of the players before them. The graduating seniors understand the importance of learning to live life off the field. It is this different mindset that makes for a dramatic element in the storyline. But at the middle of it all is Coach Ladouceur and his calling to instill value in these young men.
Football fans do not fret though, there is plenty of grid iron action to balance the off field drama. Each play ran is fast, hard hitting, and will have you on your feet yelling all the way to the goal line. The filmmakers used motorcycle cameras to follow the guys on the field. This truly speeds up the action and puts you right in the middle. There is also much detail in getting every scenario correct. Although they are down they are certainly not out. Each snap of the ball is physical and powerful.
Rated PG for thematic material, a scene of violence, and brief smoking; WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL is not a perfect film. It mainly falls short in some of the acting from the younger players. As with most films geared toward faith based audiences the lines often come across preachy and forced. Not that these themes are not important but when rehearsed into the dialogue they feel like a public service announcement more than real and normal conversation. Also at times it tries to tell too many stories. You can’t have every player’s journey included. When you do they never fully play out or find grounding. I give it 3 out of 5 first downs. You will find many reasons to stand and cheer and the film has several inspirational moments on and off the field.
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