Gridiron Streak as Metaphor for Life's Challenges Score Touchdowns for "Game"

by Tony Rutherford , HNN Entertainment Editor
Gridiron Streak as Metaphor for Life's Challenges Score Touchdowns for "Game"

How many wins? 151. In a row? Yes.

"When The Game Stands Tall" chronicles De La Salle High School's streak, or, more accurately how team members and coaches bounce back from twin tragedies that pushes all stakeholders to refresh their faith, plans and dreams.

Approaching high school football games as part of the maturation process, Coach Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel) had a physical and psychological formula, which  accents attributes seemingly unconnected to the final score. The Spartans game plans inscribe brotherhood and love which resonates through goals, commitment and hustle.

"Game" opens with another championship for the high school coach. Some schools in their sectional express disdain about the legitimacy of the winning. An assistant suggests that De La Salle will play the #1 high school team in the U.S. from back East. Dissolve to what will be a series of challenges: Coach Ladouceur suffers a heart attack; last year's fully scholarshipped star dies in gunfire the night before leaving for college.

You might say the coach's philosophy generously incorporates community service and a strong spiritual foundation that's not about preaching; it's every day values and conduct.

Director Thomas ("Swing Kids") Carter has not helmed a pic in over 20 years and has no cinematic sports theme experience, but "When the Game" runs up points on gridiron classic, "Remember the Titans." Carter discovers the timing necessary to smoothly seque between tensions of home life, training, and game days.

Based on fact, "Game" has its fictional component(s) just as "We Are Marshall's" McG opted for a composite cheerleader Annie (Kate Mara) and a composite 'let the sport die' advocate (Ian McShane). One of the high school clashes surround an obsessed, car salesman allowing swelling ego to selfishly push his son, Ryan (played by Clancy Brown)  toward a touchdown record, which collectively summarizes most 'me first' on the field success.

Doing a 180 on the 'underdog' formula which has fueled the genre from "Friday Night Lights" to "Rocky," the huddle here is to coax emotions for top of the poll mainstays. Grueling bench presses and heavy weight squash scrimmages realistically (per a former high school player) convey advancing the ball athleticism, down to ice bag cool downs in California one hundred degree temps. Although the story has personal conflicts, suspense-filled cliches meld for endzone dominance. The brush with "oh and  (spoiler)..." finally stretches the inspiration during a blistering mis-match.

Intertwining inter-denominational Christian beliefs dispose of potentially argumentative dogma, in favor of the ease of "questioning" and/or "doubting" moments which face everyone on their journey.

An assist in choosing the "home team" comes in an irony --- one always wears green and white!

Comments powered by Disqus