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Review: 'When the Game Stands Tall' is a must-see movie

When the Game Stands Tall - Exclusive Clip


By BRIAN FITZSIMMONS

Inspired by a true story, "When the Game Stands Tall" tells the remarkable journey of legendary football coach Bob Ladouceur, who led De La Salle High School (Calif.) to a 151-game winning streak that shattered all records for any American sport.

There's always something charming about a high school football tale. In this case, Ladouceur's take on life lessons (there's a lot of inspirational lines, delivered flawlessly by Jim Caviezel) and the team's unorthodox motivational tactics provide "Stands Tall" with a playbook's worth of rah-rah, uplifting moments.

But the adaption of the 2003 book by Neil Hayes, which is being released nationwide on Aug. 22, is also painfully heavy at times. Much of the film's drama centers around the shooting death of one of De La Salle's best players, Terrence Kelly, who was murdered the night before he was to leave on scholarship for the University of Oregon, and a massive heart attack Ladouceur suffered.

For much of the first half, this movie isn't about pigskin; it's a heart-wrenching account about the unfair things in life and how family or friends can shape perspective.

Then, midway through, football and overcoming obstacles suddenly become the driving forces, and successfully weave together in celebration of Ladouceur, who amassed 399 career wins before stepping down in 2012. One of the most touching scenes shows many players solemnly dedicating their personal goals to another person on the team, writing 'commitment cards.'

Ladouceur said it was never just about winning; his success throughout his career was simply a byproduct of doing things the right way. Gentle and soft-spoken (unlike a typical football coach), Caviezel was cast perfectly because of that creed.

It's difficult to pinpoint where this ranks among the all-time best football movies.

It possesses the perfect balance of hard reality and sport, like "Remember the Titans." It triggers compassion the way "The Blind Side" does. It rallies around a quirky coach, much like "We Are Marshall." It's also shot exceptionally well, a la "Friday Night Lights." Even the David vs. Goliath scene against the big, bad Long Beach Poly squad – ranked No. 1 in the United States at the time – offered some elements of the beloved "Rudy."

For all those reasons, "Stands Tall" lives up to its name.

GRADE: A

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rgordon593 August 13 2014 at 7:23 AM

Jim Caviezel is an exceptional actor and aligning himself with this work should only enhance it's appeal.

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sjk1335 August 13 2014 at 8:57 AM

It is football the article is written about, not badminton. Hope it does well, we need some stories about inspirational decent real life hero's. Not just made up fantasy end of days movies.

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eric sjk1335 August 13 2014 at 9:57 AM

And part of the article consists of "a 151-game winning streak that shattered all records for ANY AMERICAN SPORT". (my emphasis added) The lack of violence does not prevent it from being a sport.

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wla2000 August 12 2014 at 7:46 PM

Actually, the record isn't even close!! The Miller Place (Long Island,) girls Badminton team won 504 consecutive games between 1973 and 2005!!! How hard to look up was that?

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1 reply
suprstrpj wla2000 August 13 2014 at 3:25 PM

"...shattered all records for any American sport."
As someone who played badminton as well as football, I believe in this case badminton is not classified as American.

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cigary43 August 13 2014 at 9:59 AM

MR. Caviezel is one of the more prolific actors of this day as he is able to play so many different roles...where he's believable and after a few minutes on film one forgets who he is as he immerses himself inside the role. Not many actors can do that...we know who they are each minute they are in their role. Nice to see a man who can work in Hollywood with a Christian background and is able to still survive.

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GUNSLINGER August 13 2014 at 10:51 AM

Must see movie, don't look south at your border.

As the "U.S. BORDER INVASION" is allowed to continue.

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Fizban August 13 2014 at 12:33 PM

If this movie is half as good as "Rudy", then I'll go see it.

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tomwestfield August 13 2014 at 12:56 PM

How about Dan Gable, Olympic Gold medalist, who went 181-1 wrestling for Iowa State in the late 60's. Also a two time NCAA wrestling champion.

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