I’m a sucker for sports movies. You give me a gang of lovable underdogs, a few training montages and a triumphant final game and I’m in your pocket. It’s just so easy to get caught up in a sport film even when their bad. They hit all the right points that we love and when done even remotely right you at least feel a little bit of joy when those underdogs win the big game. What I’m saying is that it is really hard to make a sports film that you just stop caring about.
When the Games Stands Tall does this. Not only does it go on for way longer than it should, but it doesn’t grab you in the first place. It’s as if the filmmakers had never seen a sports film before. No, check that. It’s as if they had never seen any movie before.
When the Game Stand Tall
Director: Thomas Carter
Release Date: August 22, 2014
When the Game Stands Tall tells the story of De La Salle High School’s football team, who, under coach Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel) went on a record breaking 151 long winning streak. This is the story of the team that lost that streak and how the overcame the challenge of losing it. The problem is there weren’t actually that many challenges. They lost two games and then won the rest. Any drama that comes from their seasons is from them playing the number one ranked team in the country after their two game losing streak, but the movie rambles on long after this and takes too long getting to it.
There is maybe a story here. If the movie didn’t spend the first hour rambling through its overbearing religious lessons and instead focused on the characters and their faith it could have pulled us into the team. Instead we’re left outside of it so that when that first loss comes it’s less of an emotional feeling and more of a who cares. Thanks to the fact that so much time was needlessly spent on watching the characters not play football we’re rushed through the training and work to get the team back into winning shape.
Then, once they do beat the team that the entire film was building up to the movie goes on for another 30 minutes finishing up a side story that no one actually cared about. Any competent filmmaker would have clearly seen that the ultimate game for this team was their first win after losing the streak, but When the Game Stands Tall is not made by competent folks.
Did I mention the heavy handed religious message? When a star player who was on his way to Oregon dies, his story almost entirely immaterial to the rest of the film, the movie takes a what should be a touching scene about death and why God may choose to take a young man (if you believe in such things) and turns it into a sermon. It shouldn’t be a surprise that this is handled so poorly as the screenplay is all over the place, but since the film is clearly designed to speak to a Christian audience you’d think they would at least get that part right.
When the Game Stands Tall is a mess of a film that gets lost in its inability to tell a single story. Instead it grasps at too many different straws in an attempt to tell every story. Instead of focusing on a coach and team struggling to find itself, and dosing so through its faith, it rambles incoherently through its messages. There’s a sports movie here, it just got lost in bad film making.
One last point I’ll make. For a Christian movie the sports training montage was insanely homo-erotic. Like creepily so.