Friday, 21 August 2015

No.232 : When the Game Stands Tall

When the Game Stands Tall at the IMDb

 High school American football now, as the record breaking high school team De La Salle’s 151 game record gets the Hollywood treatment. Clearly winning 151 games in a row isn’t interesting enough as the film gets the dreaded ‘Inspired by a true story’ tag which effectively means loads of it might be made up - and according to Wikipedia it is.

Still, it isn’t billed as a documentary so let’s see if it stands up on its own two feet as a compelling sports drama.

Jesus Christ himself, Jim Caviezel stars as coach Bob Ladouceur who has lead the school to 12 straight school championships. As well as football coach he’s also scripture teacher and is married to Laura Dern, which is nice. The film opens with the Championship winning game and the pressure on the teams to maintain ‘The Streak’.  Predictable problems soon arise when star players are distracted by lucrative college offers and pushy parents tries to push their own kids into the team.

Bob has is own issues when he has a heart attack and is also tempted by offers to coach elsewhere. He also has a son on the team who isn’t that good and who takes the huff with his bedridden Dad when told that Pop may not be able to coach sports whilst he’s still warming a hospital bed.

The close season is a busy time as a player gets gunned down at a party and the new roster of players aren’t as keen on sharing their thoughts and holding hands, which helped the previous lot so well. Trouble is also brewing in the league as rival teams accuse Bob of tempting all the best players and basically cheating to keep his streak alive.

They may have a point as Bob retaliates by playing a higher ranked team and immediately loses the streak. After a second loss things threaten to go pear shaped especially as Kurgan out of ’Highlander’s son is closing in on a touchdown record that would make his old man happy and potentially enhance the boy’s future.

Things do improve and a mini streak sees the team to the championship game but can they win and will the lessons they have learned make them better people?

I was really disappointed in this film which had the potential to be good but ended up a cliché ridden mess. As soon as they left the path of truth and introduced extra dramatic elements all was lost for me. Facts were discarded and others made up which made all the achievements and sacrifices pointless.

The sub-plot of the Kurgan pressurising his son towards the touchdown record for his own aggrandisement was so well worn and hackneyed that you knew how it would play out. Every time the dad was on screen he was jabbering on about ‘the record’ and given the message that the team is more important you won’t need two guesses to see how that one plays out.

Caviezel is OK in the lead but he lacked the inspirational qualities the role demanded. His scenes with his wet son were a bit cringey and he had no spark at all with the lovely Laura Dern, who was criminally underused.

There were long periods with no on field action at all, with large swathes of the film taken up with the familiar territory of young black athletes being tempted by cars and the like and a chance to escape their tough existence.

There was nothing new in this film and given it deviated so far from the source material it failed as a biography or as a true story either. A pointless exercise all round.

Best Bit : Need a time out for that one.

‘W’ Score 6/23

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