“People always ask me what it’s like to never lose. Today I am lost.”
A 151 game winning streak is not something you see everyday, so when they decided to make a film about the De La Salle High School football team who managed to remain undefeated for 12 years I was sold. A lot of credit has to be given to Coach Bob Ladouceur for his accomplishments because he didn’t stay undefeated with the same group of players. The streak went on for over a decade so he had to continue winning with different players and that goes on to prove what a talented guy he is. This is a fantastic story for every sport fan out there, but unfortunately the movie is full of cliches and doesn’t offer anything new to the sports genre. It tries too hard to be inspirational and it includes several fictional characters that were completely unnecessary. This is such an inspiring tale in real life, that there was actually no need to make it more inspirational than what it already was. The relationship between one of the running backs and his father (Alexander Ludwig and Clancy Brown) was placed here exclusively to give it a more melodramatic arch, but it is laughable. Brown plays the over demanding father who wants his kid to break the national record for most touchdowns. The scenes are placed here exclusively in contrast to the coach’s philosophy which has to do more with being a team of brothers who are there for each other. There is no I in team. We’ve seen these clichés in sport films many times in the past, but here the dialogue is even more cheesy and forced. I did find some of the melodramatic moments quite touching, like an eulogy the coach gives midway through the film, but most of the sports scenes felt disconnected with the dramatic ones. The film left me with a sense of wanting to learn more about this real life story, but When the Game Stands Tall doesn’t do a good job of telling it. There are some great sport scenes that kept me engaged for a while, but the film fails in the dramatic department forcing inspirational moments and feeling too preachy. It is a manipulative and by the books uplifting feel good tale.
The film at times felt disconnected. You are introduced to this fabulous coach (Jim Caviezel) who is always inspiring his players, but at the same time his situation at home doesn’t seem to be going too well. His wife is played by Laura Dern and I felt like these family moments didn’t work at all in this film because they only touched the surface of their problems. The relationship with his son (Matthew Daddario) wasn’t explored either and everything was sort of left in the limbo when the second half of the film focuses exclusively on the football games and practices. The actors are fine, but the script is weak and ultimately their characters suffer from not having any depth. There is also a subplot involving some of the seniors who are heading to college that’s also kind of ignored after the passing of one of the players. It is a key moment in the film, but it simply felt disconnected with everything else.