When the Game Stands Tall (3/10)
by Tony Medley
Runtime 117 minutes.
OK for children.
This cliché-ridden biopic of high school coach Bob Ladouceur (Jim
Cavaiezel) and how his 2004 team coped with the ending of De La Salle’s
(a small school just outside of Oakland) 151 game winning streak is so
preachy it robs itself of entertainment value.
The point of the film seems to be to emphasize Ladouceur’s character. He
allegedly feels it is more important to build men than to win games, but
the entire theme of the film is winning. The film defines success by
showing the team coming back from two defeats to, what? Win!
Abounding with platitudes, the script is by Scott Marshall Smith but
with “story credits” to David Zelon and Smith even though it’s based on
a book by Neil Hayes. Why does a script need a “story credit” when it’s
based on a non-fiction book? Could it be that what we are seeing on the
screen is less than factual?
It’s hard to buy the piffle that lasts for almost two hours. Almost
every time Ladouceur says anything it’s backed up by music (John Paesano)
so maudlin it eventually becomes laughable, as if everything Ladouceur
says should be carved in marble.
Cavaiezel plays the role woodenly, as if he’s an already canonized
saint, never cracking a smile and going around looking as if he’s George
Washington incarnate (if not Jesus, De La Salle is a Catholic school
Directed by Thomas Carter with an astonishing lack of pace, one of the
scenes that is obviously intended to be shocking was so telegraphed that
I almost said to my friend, “he’s going to be shot,” a few minutes
before he is. Carter also had a try at directing another sports movie,
Coach Carter (2005), and
he hasn’t learned from the faults of that film how to do sports. He
still has far too many close ups of the action. He falls prey to what
burdens many sports films, especially football and boxing, in that the
audio is so amplified that when there’s a collision, like between
linemen, it sounds as if World War III has broken out. Sports just don’t
sound like this in real life. Worse, he injects innumerable extraneous
plays into the two hours that have no relation to a competition because
one doesn’t know the scores or the situations, until the end, that is.
They are just isolated plays from various games (although some are
scoring plays that have at least a little relevance).
The end credits include films of the real people who were the
characters, showing Ladouceur low key and unemotional as Cavaiezel
played him. Had the film generated any interest in the characters, these
shots might have been fascinating. Unfortunately, the characters and
their dialogue are so contrived I was exhausted from having to sit
through it and all I wanted to do was scoot.