MOVIE REVIEW - When The Game Stands Tall

on 27 August 2014.

The new high school football bio-pic, When The Game Stands Tall is out this week and sadly it fumbles.  You know when you see a ton of hype before a movie on TV? That usually means there is trouble - and there is.

Let's defend it up front first though.   This is a great real story, that focuses somewhat on a really amazing man and football coach, Bob Ladouceur at De La Salle High School in Oakland, California.  He deserves a much better movie than this, and that is the shame of this whole thing. This falls under the category of "big chance missed."  This ends up being formula.

Ladouceur has been the head football coach at this high school for over 30 years.  De La Salle has won 151 games in a row which is the longest winning streak in any organized sport ever.  The streak comes to an end, plus the coach has a heart attack, and one of the teams most popular players is killed in a senseless shooting.  How will these young men adapt and cope with all this at once?  That is the story they put out there for you to think you will see.  And you will. But sadly, they missed the boat.

The real amazing story is of Ladouceur.  He is an incredible football coach that in today's world is a total throwback.  He believes deeply that his role in this world is to prepare young men for life with football as the catalyst and not the main focus.  Many of the kids he coaches are from horrible backgrounds in blighted areas of Oakland.  His priorities are profound and somehow he successfully transfers this to kids who would seem reluctant to absorb such a message.  

The sad part is that the script is so bad that they fail to really convey that to us until the very end.  The written dialogue is very bad, even clunky at times. The story wanders into areas that it doesn't belong time and time again.  This needed a better write, and a much sharper focus.  And maybe the biggest flub is that for a movie about a guy that honestly believes and preaches that his whole focus truly is NOT football -  there is a whole lot of football in this movie.  Seemingly endless football scenes that make us grow weary. But, you have to have them for fans to go.

Ironically, the ending credits are where were really learn how great a guy he is.  Wonderful footage of the actual coach preaching his beliefs in great candor. Then an amazing endorsement from NFL legend John Madden calling Ladouceur the greatest football coach at any level in the country.  ANY level.  Sad that the movie makers didn't catch on till it's too late.

There are some nice elements to this, and there are a few emotive parts that keep you engaged, but it's not what it should have been.  This has been compared to Remember The Titans, but it's not as good. This also was badly cast in it's major roles, Titans has Denzel Washington, this does not.  This needed some star power, and has none.   

When The Game Stands Tall.  Bob Ladouceur is an inspiration and an incredible man. He deserves better than this.  Hope to see a documentary on him sometime.  We could really get to know him.

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