Is It Cool?: Excellence in Filmmaking
From the outside, When the Game Stands Tall looks like every other typical sports movie. De LaSalle’s high school football team has an extraordinary winning streak but suddenly suffers defeat and their bond as a team and integrity as men is put to the test. Their coach, Bob Ladouceur (played by an incredibly stoic Jim Caviezel) is the glue that holds the team together. His main goal is to help these men grow into good, strong men first… and a winning team second. This makes the coach like a father figure to them, blurring the lines for him between how much time and heart he gives to his home life vs. life on the field.
As Coach Bob struggles with his marriage, health, and career, the football players are dealing with the “typical” high school challenges of parties, girls, college pressure…etc. The story line of this film is very untraditional since it’s not the “underdog rises to the top” that we’re used to in sports movies. It almost feels like for the coach and the players, once they lose a game after their “streak” of over 150 wins, everything else in their lives starts to fall apart too.
It felt like their were SO many life issues that were portrayed that it left me wishing all of them could have been properly played out, discussed, and resolved… but that’s not possible in a movie. Maybe in three seasons of a TV show… but not a movie. However, I think this does give an accurate glimpse of what life can really be like. How often do we deal with only one problem and see it resolved in a couple months? A sudden death, a coach with an identity crisis, a broken father/son relationship, big questions about God and suffering… these things aren’t naturally going to be resolved quickly, so how can they be in this movie?
I thought that the actors did a great job. The small town setting was spot on. And what I loved the most was the energy and excitement of the football games. This is a town whose pride and joy is high school football. They eat, sleep, and breathe football and you certainly get that feel in the game scenes.
What’s it Saying?: Message of the Movie
The main message of this movie is that in sports as in life you won’t always be the winner. You won’t always be on top. Your true character is defined by how you handle times of victory and times of defeat. The movie does a great job of highlighting the virtue of humility, a quality that stands out as counter-cultural in sports today. There’s a fine line that the team must walk between pushing themselves to be the best they can be so that they can win, not necessarily so they can be famous.
In a culture where athletes are conditioned to believe that it’s a survival of the fittest and you have to do whatever it takes to get to the top, this team and their amazing winning streak shows us that it’s brotherhood, love, and commitment to the guy next to you (not to the god of me, myself, and I) that ultimately makes a winning team… and builds men of good character.
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: Morality in the Movie
This film is very clean. There’s a shooting scene that may be frightening for young audiences. One of the football players dies, but nothing graphic is displayed. There is also a subtle joke about sex which is addressed immediately as being disrespectful and immoral.
Safe for all ages that would find it engaging.
That's Right. I Said It: Reviewer Comments
I couldn’t help thinking, “well yeah, with Jesus as their coach of course they’re winning…” you know… since Jim Caviezel is best known for The Passion of the Christ.
I still don’t get the title of this film. How does a game stand?
It was really cool to see a couple Bible verses highlighted in the movie from Coach Bob.
The purity-card plug felt pretty forced. I wish they had come up with a better way to present chastity as a beautiful virtue.