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Football drama When The Game Stands Tall conveys important life lessons

Colette Greenstein | 8/29/2014, 6 a.m.
When The Game Stands Tall tells inspirational story of redemption through football.
Matthew Daddario and Jessie Usher in TriStar Pictures’ When the Game Stands Tall.

How do you get back up after you’ve fallen? This is the crux of the film, When The Game Stands Tall, from director Thomas Carter (Save the Last Dance and Coach Carter). Based on Neil Hayes’ book, the film tells the inspirational true story of Robert “Bob” Ladouceur (portrayed by Jim Caviezel), who coached the high school football team, the De La Salle Spartans in Concord, California, to 12-consecutive undefeated seasons from 1992 to 2004, all the while setting a national winning streak of 151 consecutive wins in the country.

The film stars Lowell, Mass. native Michael Chiklis as defensive coordinator, Terry Eidson; Laura Dern as Bev Ladouceur; Alexander Ludwig (The Hunger Games) as Chris Ryan and Clancy Brown (FOX-TV’s Sleepy Hollow) as Mickey Ryan.

Yet, when the streak is broken and tragedy strikes the team, Coach Bob and the players struggle to learn how to get back up on their feet after they’ve fallen. A bit heavy-handed and religious at times, the film explores the themes of faith, friendship and brotherhood. The underlying principles of Coach Ladouceur’s teachings to the team, is not just about football, it’s about commitment to each other and being of service to your community.

Along the way, the principles were forgotten or pushed aside during the winning streak, but the players are snapped back to reality once the streak is broken and they each begin questioning their reason for being. Cam (played by Ser’Darius Blain) begins questioning everything in his life as his mother is dying of cancer. Quarterback Chris Ryan (Alexander Ludwig) is trying to keep the team together after the loss of a teammate, as his controlling father is vicariously living out his high school dreams through Chris, and is proving to be a more formidable foe than the ones he finds on opposing teams. Bob’s son Danny (Matthew Daddario) is eager to prove that he’s rightly earned his place on the team that it wasn’t just given to him because of who his dad is; and then there’s Tayshon Lanear (Jesse Usher) who has a chip on his shoulder and alienates his fellow teammates by believing that he doesn’t need any of the other players or anyone else to succeed.

Meanwhile, Bob, who also teaches at the Christian School is struggling to balance his role as a dad and husband without losing himself completely in his role as coach and teacher at De La Salle High School.

When The Game Stands Tall is a sports movie in the vein of We Are Marshall, Friday Night Lights and Remember the Titans, in which the players, the coach, and the towns are dealt heavy blows, and have to learn how to get back on their feet, work together and believe in one another to succeed and win. When The Game Stands Tall is inspirational, although a bit predictable, but still offers hope and life lessons such as not letting the game define who are you and becoming someone that you can be proud of. These are the simple rules that can be followed by anyone, not just athletes.