'When the Game Stands Tall': It's not about football
When the Game Stands Tall, it’s not about football. In fact, the entire first half of this film focuses on setting up the football half of the film. It is all about the bad things that happen to the team during the off-season just before the longest winning streak in football history is broken.
Based on the true story of Coach Bob Ladouceur and the De La Salle Spartans, the movie starts off just brushing by the ending of the streak. It then follows the interpersonal struggles of players playing for themselves, the tragedy of inner city violence that is senseless and the failing physical health of the Ladouceur, which brings up his personal failure to find a work-life balance.
During this entirely too slow and football-less part of the film, there is a lot of talk about religion and God, but When the Game Stands Tall isn’t a religious film either. At its best, it is a coming of age film that takes full advantage of Alexander Ludwig’s charisma and acting chops. Michael Chiklis does his usually outstanding job, even if the role he plays is small, he may be the best actor in the film.
The best part of the film, aside from the final scenes on the football field with Ludwig, is as the credits roll because they play parts from the ESPN documentary 151: The Greatest Streak of the team, and show what Ladouceur really had to deal with.
When the Game Stands Tall finally hits the right notes at the end. However, to paraphrase Laura Dern’s character, there is something missing from the film. Maybe it’s heart. Maybe it tried too hard to hit the meat of the story, which isn’t the football games. Whatever it was, the marketing department did a terrible job by selling this as a football movie. Really it is a relationship movie where football provides the background – kind of like Friday Night Lights, but not as good.
Read Romney's Review of When the Game Stands Tall on MoviePilot