Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Subtitled, Widescreen
Subtitles: French, Portuguese, Spanish
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Number of discs: 2
Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Release Date: December 9, 2014
Digital Copy Expiration Date: December 31, 2017
Run Time: 115 minutes
Basing a film on true events can often be a double-edged sword in the hands of an incapable filmmaker. There are two opposing impulses in these narratives, and they can often be in direct conflict with each other. The urge to mold the inspirational and motivational events to adhere to genre structures can often directly contradict the goal of a faithful and realistic portrayal of the actual people behind the story. When the Game Stands Tall attempts to do both, at the detriment to the final product.
When the Game Stands Tall is based on the true story of legendary high school football coach, Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel), whose 151-game winning streak with the De La Salle High School Spartans broke records for all American sports. The film itself is not about this streak, however, but instead is about the events that followed once the team had finally lost. Making a film about a team coming to terms with the impact of loss and the unimportance of winning streaks and records is somewhat contradictory to the structure of most sports movies, but instead adheres to a moralistic agenda cultivated in the film as faith-based entertainment.
The Christian themes are not as prevalent as they have been for more direct faith-based entertainment, even including a few horribly misguided sports movies, showing a step in the right direction for movies with a spiritual message. This is not enough to make it a good film, however. Between the effort to include real events and characters in the narrative, a Christian message, and plenty of inspirational football sequences, When the Game Stands Tall comes off like a convoluted attempt to imitate “Friday Night Lights.” Were this film the first two episodes of a TV series, I might have continued watching to see if it got any better. As it stands, the only memorable elements of the film are the ones that are a complete failure.
Aside from the overall narrative structure being a mess, the film doesn’t really have a protagonist to carry the film through contrived sequences of emotional manipulation. Caviezel should have carried the film as Coach Ladouceur, but a misguided attempt to faithfully imitate the real man results in a soft-spoken and wholly uncharismatic leading character. Caviezel nearly blends into the background, whereas the over-acting by many of the football players suggests that they appear to have believed themselves to be the film’s main character. There is nothing within the film strong enough to bind together all of these various strands, many of which feel as though they belong to completely different movies.
The Blu-ray combo pack comes with a DVD copy, as well as a digital HD copy. The special features on both discs include a commentary track from director Thomas Carter, as well as a making-of featurette. Exclusive to the Blu-ray are a handful of additional extras, including select scene commentary and a featurette with the real Coach Ladouceur, a handful of deleted/extended scenes, and an additional featurette on the filming of the football sequences.
Entertainment Value: 4.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 4/10
Historical Significance: 3/10
Special Features: 7.5/10