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'When The Game Stands Tall': Football, Christian Values and Journey of Boys to Men (Review)

When The Game Stands Tall Poster
Poster for Sony Picture's When The Game Stands Tall |

Sony Pictures' "When The Game Stands Tall" injects a fresh take on the true meaning of brotherhood as it relates to sports.

The story in and of itself is compelling. De La Salle Catholic School from Concord, California embarked on a 151 game winning streak starting in 1991 and ending in 2004, all under legendary coach Bob Ladouceur. Ladouceur is a legend not only because of his pedigree, but more so because of the lasting effects he's had on his players by instilling a sense of family, brotherhood, and the pursuit of perfect effort.

He and his longtime friend and fellow coach at De La Salle, Terry Edison, helped not only build the most successful high school football program in the country, but build men. The film is based on the 2003 book of the same name written by author Neil Hayes, who wanted to tell the story of the amazing things he saw happen at De La Salle.

"I'd wanted to capture the essence of the most unique football program I had ever seen," Hayes wrote in the prologue. "Ladouceur allowed me complete access during the 2002 season and I wanted to repay the De La Salle Football community by fairly representing a program making national headlines while compiling what would become a national record 151-game winning streak."

Although reading the book is not required before watching the movie, it only enhances the experience. The film did a great job of maintaining the integrity of the story. Nothing seems to be overstated or outlandish, even though the coaching sentiments given by Coach Lad are extremely rare in execution. Jim Caviezel ("Passion of The Christ") studied hours of documentaries and stories about Coach Lad to capture his stoic demeanor.

Jim Caviezel
Jim Caviezel as Coach Bob Ladouceur (l) in the film "When the Game Stands Tall." |

What sets the story and movie apart from other football films, especially high school football films, is the docile disposition Coach Lad exhibits. Some of his players were knuckle heads. They went against the mission one time or another. But Coach Lad never raised his voice. He rarely celebrated audibly when the team scored. He always maintained an attitude of calm. Coach Edison – not so much, but that played into the Ying and Yang of their winning formula, and is well captured in the film.

The film (PG) doesn't delve deep into the incidents that happened that made the story even more incredible; the heart attack Coach Lad suffered and his journey back to the sidelines wasn't documented heavily. Also the tragic slaying of star safety Terrance Kelly seemed rushed and left a desire for more development. But to the movie's credit, it did have to fit a lot of story into 149 minutes.

In relation to the games scenes, "When The Game Stands Tall" did a good job choreographing the action to make it believable. The film is beautifully shot, composed, and lit. The soundtrack is fitting and is a great mix of popular and lesser known songs that match the moments in the film.

As for criticism, the film to the normal football fanatic will seem shrouded in cliché. There aren't any performances that are memorable enough to take with you after the film is over, nowhere near the level "Friday Night Lights," "Rudy," "Remember The Titans," or any of the other greats.

But that's OK. The point of the film wasn't to re-enact great plays, but to show what can be done when one man stands for what he believes and holds young men to the same standards.

when the game stands tall
A scene from the film "When the Game Stands Tall" (2014). |

Overall, the film puts forth a perfect effort in capturing what made Coach Lad, Coach Edison, De La Salle, and "The Streak" special. It takes you on a journey of how the man changed the boys, and the boys changed the man. The end of the movie ties together the journey that not only the players embarked upon, but the journey that Coach Lad forged in becoming a better father, husband, and man.

Faith, dedication, brotherhood, and family are all showcased in "When The Game Stands Tall," and we can all take a page from Coach Lad's playbook.

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