I have long been a fan of Jim Caviezel, and never more so than during his stirring portrayal as our Lord and Savior, Jesus, in The Passion of the Christ, along with his other roles in Person of Interest, The Count of Monte Cristo, and Frequency.
When I heard that he was cast as the De La Salle High School football coach Bob Ladouceur, I was interested in seeing how he would portray his personal values of faith and teamwork in the feature film When the Game Stands Tall, in theaters on Aug. 22. I had the opportunity to attend a screening of the film.
My favorite sports films all move me emotionally--in particular, Rudy, 42, and Hoosiers, which are all mainstream films about football, baseball and basketball respectively. Recently, there have been some inspirational films about football, Remember the Titans, We Are Marshall and Facing the Giants. Generally all of those films are about rooting for the underdog to succeed against the odds.
The storyline of this film is based on real events regarding the dominant Catholic High School football program's response to adversity, the senseless violent death of a star player, the head coach's heart attack, and losing a football game after going undefeated for 151 straight games over 12 seasons from 1992 to 2004. In a way, they become an underdog by having to rely on their faith in Christ to show them what is most important in life. The real life coach is quoted as having said, "Winning a lot of football games is doable. Teaching kids there's more to life? That's hard."
That's the context for the rest of the film. Without completely spoiling the plot, those early scenes involving the team dealing with adversity turn into pivotal moments of the film as the main characters, Caviezel, his assistant coach (Michael Chiklis), and star player Chris Ryan (Alexander Ludwig), recognize that there's more to life than winning football games, which is one of the main points of the movie as a whole. That's a key message as much of our culture today is looking out for themselves, and not as focused on how to serve and love people with humility. The message of The Bible is counter-cultural, as referenced in the film's key Bible passage, James 4:10 (VOICE): "Lay yourself bare, facedown to the ground, in humility before the Lord; and He will lift your head so you can stand tall."
When the Game Stands Tall is an inspirational story about football, teamwork, and dealing with adversity, rated PG. The movie is a great experience for families to share together, amongst faith communities and any sports team. Many will be able to identify with the tension faced by star player Ludwig from his overbearing father (Clancy Brown), challenging him to pursue the personal goal of breaking the state scoring record over the values of being a teammate, with integrity and vulnerability of relying on others to "stand tall." A poignant moment in the film is when the son stands up to his father by sharing the Gospel message of Matthew 23:12 (NIV): "For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."
One of the enduring scenes of the film shows the players holding hands with each other, not afraid to show their emotional connection. Their affection for their teammates and coach was very evident throughout the film. I highly recommend the film's focus on instilling in a group of young men the values of realizing that there are more important things in life than themselves. Jim Caviezel was quoted as saying about the film, "I once heard someone say that the word 'ego' could be an acronym for 'Edge God Out.' Well for these guys, Coach Ladouceur put God back in it." Amen to that!
Watch the trailer here:
NRT Lead Contributor Kevin Davis is a longtime fan of Christian music, an avid music collector and credits the message of Christian music for leading him to Christ. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and three daughters.