When the Game Stands Tall Blu-Ray Review
Maybe inspirational sports movies aren’t my cup of tea. I get more emotional watching my local sports team put their hearts on the line every weekend than I do most dramatized sports movies. There’s a feel good quality about them that doesn’t quite click with me even though I admire the inherent soul of them. WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL is the latest offering and has some surprising, admirable qualities that I haven’t seen before. But it still doesn’t quite know how to put together a solid game plan.
Most of these movies have an underdog team or a team that is attempting to overcome an insurmountable hurdle, WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL isn’t shy about being upfront with the De La Salle Spartans. They’re a high school football team that has won 151 straight games; That’s a real life record that I doubt will ever come close to being matched (or I’m just really lacking in high school football knowledge and it happens all the time).
You’d think the well of inspiration would be dry when it comes to that kind of team. How can one feel sorry for the team that always wins? Shouldn’t we take some kind of sick glee when watching the winners lose? Everyone I know sure seems to jump for joy when the Peyton Manning’s and Tom Brady’s of the world fall on their face and suffer defeat. WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL still manages to find a few ways to pull at the heart string and deliver a powerful message.
First there’s the team’s coach, Bob Ladouceur (Caviezel), whose dedication to the Spartans football team may be leading to a strained relationship with his wife and family. He is the heart and soul of the Spartans and without him they’re just another run-of-the-mill high school football team with inflated teenage egos. Ladouceur’s approach to coaching seems counterproductive. Telling your players that football isn’t important sounds like something the coach for the team that just lost would say. Ladouceur’s method is part religious and part selflessness, although both of those themes go hand-in-hand when preached right.
The death of a future star athlete that shakes those who knew the impoverished youngster to their core, gives Ladouceur a chance to show the true connection he has with his players and a chance to teach the fragileness of life and to turn frustration into growth. There are plenty of other “Jesus talking to his apostles” style teachings that Ladouceur gives, but outside that, it’s a very stagnant story.
Ultimately, WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL is clunky. It shifts wildly from character to character without ever focusing its sights on the message or meaning it wants the audience to grab a hold of. By wedging in all these different stories and inspirational moments, it blurs it’s most important message: win or lose, there’s no odds you can’t over. If it knew how to hone in on its humility, you have a classic in the making. Instead, it’s a “bored on a Saturday night, might as well watch something with the family” movie.
Video: (1080p Widescreen 1:85:1) The heart pounding football action comes through clearly on this blu-ray. This lush grass field and sweat dripping down the faces of players is presented beautifully.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) Half the time it seems like coach Ladouceur is whispering, but luckily there’s no audio problems, so you can understand him clearly. The hits on the field are hard and heard clearly.
Commentary with Director Thomas Carter: It’s not the most exciting thing to listen to someone by themselves and Thomas doesn’t sound thrilled to be in the recording booth either. Offers some insight, but would have been made better by the addition of someone else.
Select Scenes Commentary with Director Thomas Carter and Bob Ladouceur (50:37): With how long this is, I’m a bit curious as to why Ladouceur couldn’t have just simply joined Carter on the commentary. I’d recommend listening to this over the solo commentary. It really great addition in case you’re curious about the life and actual events surrounding Ladouceur and the record shattering Spartans.
Deleted and Extended Scenes (14:30): WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL already feels a little bit long, but some of these deleted scenes actually feel like they would have added a touch of warmth, including a scene with a player who’s seeking comfort in his coach.
Undefeated: Making When the Game Stands Tall (12:49): While this is the typical behind the scenes look, it gives a small bit of insight into the man who wrote the book that inspired this movie. That by itself is more interesting than the rest of this feature and it’s too bad the author who followed this team was not given his own feature.
Gridiron Action (7:43): This is a feature focusing on how the football action was shot in the movie. Considering how well it was edited and how entertaining it was, it’s really interesting to see how everything came together.
The Heart and Soul of a Program: Bob Ladouceur (11:50): This feature solely focuses on the coach himself and since we’ve had a healthy dose of him in all the other features, it feels a little bit unnecessary. This seems like Ladouceur fan service, but by the end of all these features, I’m a fan of the guy myself.