REVIEW: When the Game Stands Tall (2014)

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2014, Affirm Films/Mandalay Pictures

Director:
Thomas Carter
Producer:
David Zelon
Writers:
Neil Hayes (original book)
Scott Marshall Smith (screenplay)
Cinematography:
Michael Lohmann
Editing:
Scott Richter

Cast:
Jim Caviezel (Bob “Coach Lad” Ladouceur)
Michael Chiklis (Terry Eidson)
Alexander Ludwig (Chris Ryan)
Clancy Brown (Mickey Ryan)
Laura Dern (Bev Ladouceur)
Matthew Daddario (Danny Ladouceur)
Joe Massengill (Beaser)
Jessie Usher (Tayshon Lanear)
Ser’Darius Blain (Cam Colvin)
Stephen James (T.K. Kelly)

The inspirational true story of the 2004-2005 De La Salle high school football team comes to life in this film adaptation that truly stands as a film that is as inspiring as its story.

Since Coach Bob Ladouceur took over as head coach for the De La Salle high school football team, the school had won 151 straight games as well as 12 regional championships. After winning championship number twelve, a chain of events occur during the late spring and early summer that serve as a potential threat to the very foundation that has made De La Salle what it is today.

Considering a job offer to coach college, Bob gets the awful truth that his time as a coach has taken away time as a father and husband. Bob suffers a heart attack as a result of the stress and has been ordered to stay away from coaching until further notice. As the summer progresses, graduating senior Terence Kelly, on the night before his departure from Oregon, is gunned down and killed while picking up a friend at a party. When the team attempts to face other top ranked teams in the Northwest, their first game against Bellevue ends the long winning streak. The team has been deterred and Coach Lad must find a way to bring the team back together and teach them that life is not just about the game of football.

The De La Salle high school football team was known for its winning streak of 151 games, which began in 1992 and ended in 2004. The film is set in the span of the 2004 season, just as the team had won their 12th championship and how the team faced tragedy and the loss of their streak head-on by the motivation of coach Bob Ladouceur.

Jim Caviezel pulls off a brilliant performance as Ladouceur, who learns a lesson both on and off the field. It is once he learns his lesson off the field that he channels his newfound energy on the field upon his return after a near-fatal heart attack. Laura Dern gives great support as Bob’s wife, who gives him a wake-up call. An unrecognizable Michael Chiklis does well as assistant coach Terry Eidson, who briefly took over after Ladouceur’s heart attack and attempts to help lift the team’s spirit.

The film not only focuses on the team as a whole, but certain players as well. Matthew Daddario plays Bob’s oldest son, who had yearned for his father’s attention off the field and now needs him as a coach once he changes his tune. Jessie Usher plays the very cocky Lanear, who thinks he is “all that and a bag of chips” until a team visit to a veteran’s hospital gives him a life lesson. Alexander Ludwig plays running back Ryan, who is under constant pressure from his crazy father as he nears breaking the state record for scoring the most touchdowns. These three seem to have the biggest issues which is why they get the most screen time in an individual capacity.

A very inspiring story, When the Game Stands Tall is a wonderful film that shows unity both on and off the field with a team who had it all and then lost it, only to bounce back with a new and motivational style of team spirit.

WFG RATING: A

DVD

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