Director: Thomas Carter
Starring: Jim Caviezel, Michael Chiklis, Alexander Ludwig, Laura Dern
Release Date (US): 22nd August, 2014
Company: TriStar Pictures
“Don’t let a game define who you are. Let the way you live your lives do that.” – Asst. Coach Edison
Inspired by a true story When The Game Stands Tall charts the remarkable efforts of one high school coach, who led the De La Salle Spartans to a 151-game winning streak. The movie, directed by Thomas Carter (Coach Carter), stars Jim Caviezel (Person Of Interest) as Bob Ladouceur – a hard-working football coach, whose commitment to building a family out of his team has resulted in years of success. But when tragedy strikes and the streak is broken, Coach Lad must teach his players how to bounce back from defeat.
The main story is incredibly predictable. As with most sports movies, it’s got a classic underdog tale, a few cocky players and an inspirational speech or two to help them along the way. But that’s the inherent beauty of these films, and for much of its audience, When The Game Stands Tall is unlikely to disappoint. It’s dynamic yet humble, blending the values of perseverance with family and respect. For everyone else: it’s a little corny.
Where it is most lacking is in an emotional impact. Unlike other sports movies (such as Coach Carter) Where The Game Stands Tall struggles to generate similarly powerful levels of joy or sadness with its story. Sure, it has its moments, but the rest seems like a poor imitation of other, greater works. The characters are too thinly defined to ever relate with, while the movie’s overt Christian themes may also alienate some viewers.
“The only way I’m going out of this game is on a stretcher.” – Chris Ryan
Coach Carter had Samuel L. Jackson. Any Given Sunday had Al Pacino. Every sports movie is anchored by the portrayal of the coach – and it is no different here. Jim Caviezel turns in yet another worthy performance, showing great restraint in his reserved yet thoughtful take on Bob Ladouceur. An intellectual at heart, Caviezel’s Ladouceur isn’t nearly as inspirational as Jackson’s Carter, but is still an equally wise father figure.
Michael Chiklis (The Shield) is solid as Asst. Coach Terry Edison. Showing great chemistry with Caviezel, he makes the most of his limited screen time. Alexander Ludwig (The Hunger Games) bears the brunt of the team’s dramatic material, handling it admirably, but his turbulent father-son relationship with Clancy Brown (The Flash) feels recycled from other movies. There’s not enough characterisation of the rest of the players either, while Laura Dern (Enlightened) is severely underused as Mrs Ladouceur.
Direction & Tone
Despite being thematically very similar to Coach Carter, director Thomas Carter’s first feature film in nine years never quite lives up to its immortal predecessor. The football scenes are expertly executed though. Each game is fast-paced and relentless – a fantastic advertisement for the sport to any new viewers. Where it lacks in tension, it makes up for in excitement, but there’s not enough substance to the drama off the field.
- I’m a sucker for sports movies. Always have been. While this is no Friday Night Lights by any means, you stick an inspirational coming-of-age tale with a bunch of sweaty adolescents and I’ll be there, every single time.
- That didn’t come out quite the way I thought it would…
- This movie’s Christian themes are so strong, there’s an argument that Caviezel was reprising his Passion Of The Christ role as Jesus here.
Thomas Carter follows up on his Coach Carter success with another high school sports movie. It’s a fast-paced and unashamedly sentimental football flick at heart, but it lacks the dramatic substance and emotional depth of other, greater sports movies.