By REY FLORES
I’m not certain, but it sure seems like there is a Christian rebellion of sorts going on in the filmmaking industry, and I for one am glad of it.
Sure, it isn’t the major Hollywood studios and its mostly independent studios producing quality Christian films, but it sure is a welcome respite from the usual fare of sex, drugs, violence and a seemingly endless stream of recycled comic-book heroes.
In the new film When the Game Stands Tall, we welcome back one of our favorite actors who played probably the best Jesus in movie history. Jim Caviezel returns to the big screen as a middle-aged football coach who has his hands full with a football team that God has entrusted to him to guide down a righteous path in the game of life.
Based on the true life story of high school football coach Bob Ladouceur, who coached for 30 years and at one point led his team to a historic 151 victories, this film deals mainly with how Ladouceur nurtured his team as young men of virtue and faith. As they say, you give it to God, He will give you everything you need.
The film centers around a team that lost that 152nd game, but somehow came back not just to win games again, but to realize how important the coach’s lessons were going to be for the rest of their lives on and off the field.
At one point, the coach faces his own mortality as he suffers a heart attack, and then has to come to terms with one of his players being senselessly gunned down by gang violence that the promising young man had nothing to do with.
The part about the promising young player cut down in his prime reminded me a little of an early 1990s film titled Boyz N the Hood, where almost the exact same scenario was played out. What is it about promising and other not-so-promising young black men in America dying in senseless urban violence?
Either way, When the Game Stands Tall has all the elements of a sports movie with the fast-motion, on-the-field action shots, and all of the nail-biting tension of the “must-win” game that reminded me of movies like Rocky, The Karate Kid, and Hoosiers.
While there is no denying that it is a sports-themed movie, there are plenty of other elements that will appeal to the non-sports fan as well. These elements include drama, a few lighthearted comedic moments, and the important parts of a man’s life, like what determines who he is.
Caviezel does a fantastic job of playing a football coach, yes; but he does a terrific job of also playing a husband, a father, and a man searching for God’s guidance as he does what we all try to do each day: Ask God what He wants from us.
Kudos to all the young actors in this film! While Caviezel garners the top billing, all the acting in this movie was top notch and I look forward to seeing some of these faces again in the future.
I give the film four out of five stars. I recommend this family-friendly film to everyone, and it is especially great as a date-night movie for you and your spouse.
As I write this review, the film is set to open nationwide on August 22. Support films like these on the opening weekend and week to send a strong message to the studios and theaters that people want quality films with a moral message, and not just the garbage that Hollywood usually spoon-feeds the American public.
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(Rey Flores is a Catholic writer and speaker and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)