Summer blockbuster and awards season A-lister movies grab the lion’s share of the box-office. But another genre, an unpretentious one, is quietly gaining momentum by targeting an under-served demographic.
“When the Game Stands Tall” is the latest of the moderate-budget “values” films that typically showcase conservative or Christian themes.
It’s based on the true story of Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel), the inspiring coach of De La Salle, a Catholic high school in California, who led their football team through a record-setting 151-game winning streak.
Of course, it’s not about winning. And it’s not about football. “It’s about moving you in a direction to help you grow up,” Ladouceur says when he’s particularly perturbed that his young men revel in their victory or wallow when the streak is inevitably broken.
In other words, it’s not whether you win or lose that matters, or even how you play the game. What matters is how you live your life outside of the field.
He even uses the time in the locker room as a bonding exercise; players open up emotionally and set goals for themselves. Football is merely an inert delivery medium to instill character, teamwork and trust — seeds Ladouceur plants for the boys’ use later in life.
And just like Mr. Miyagi teaching Daniel to wax the car, the reward comes when the students recognize the application of those lesson.
Director Thomas Carter, coincidentally an alum of the classic television show, “The White Shadow,” gets it. A male role model helping align a young man’s moral compass is the difference between success and failure.
Unfortunately, Ladouceur’s own personal life is no model. His wife (Laura Dern) is drifting away and his son desperately needs a father more than a coach.
Taking a child from crayons to perfume is a theme rife with potential. Films like “Dead Poet’s Society” and “To Sir, With Love” managed the task handily.
This one, regrettably, felt forced. Too much of the message was told, not shown. Moreover, told in platitudes. But while I found the movie unsatisfying, the importance of trust and integrity at a vulnerable time in a child’s development is a salient point we take away.
Med City Movie Guy’s rating: 3 Honks
The spirit is willing but the celluloid is weak
“When the Game Stands Tall” is the most recent in the growing “values” niche of low-end spiritual or family-themed movies. Recent break-outs include “Moms’ Night Out” and “God’s not Dead.”
I’ve reviewed several of these over the years and found them both entertaining and uplifting, though absent mainstream appeal.
Heaven is for Real. One of this year’s most popular. Greg Kinnear stars as a minister struggling to reconcile the improbability of his child’s visit to heaven and his own belief that it is possible.
Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. Conservative columnist Ben Stein examines the one-way street of so-called academic freedom. The close-ups of Stein on the Jumbo screen creeped me out, but it is otherwise balanced and thought-provoking. Can such an expose change minds? Anyone? Anyone?
Fireproof. Child-star turned evangelist Kirk Cameron takes on the very adult-themed problem of couples growing apart. At the fire station, he advocates, “Never leave your partner behind,” but fails to practice what he preaches at home.
For Greater Glory. Andy Garcia brings life to the little-known Catholic purge that claimed nearly 100,000 lives in the early part of the last century called “The Cristero War.” A solid film by most standards.
Last Ounce of Courage. Sappy tale of one small town’s underdog victory in the War on Christmas and the first film ever to earn “The Chuck Norris Seal of Approval.” Seriously.