Football movie balances story and message

lifestyle_entertainmentBy M. Scott Morris

Daily Journal

There’s nothing wrong with a movie with a message, especially if the movie comes first.

No one can watch “When the Game Stands Tall” and not know where the film’s heart is, but it’s also an engrossing drama.

Based on a true story, “When the Game Stands Tall” follows a high school football team with a 151-game winning streak.

Coach Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel) obviously knows how to motivate young men, but his approach to coaching is tested by problems on and off the field.

For one, Ladouceur’s health becomes an issue, probably because he wasn’t exactly living all the values he coached.

And there’s strife at home, where Bev Ladouceur (Laura Dern) would love for her husband to at least consider some of the college offers he’s been getting.

The whole team faces an off-season tragedy, and some of the players have a sense of entitlement the coach doesn’t appreciate.

Anyone who’s seen the previews knows this movie isn’t about the streak, but about what happens when the streak ends.

Truth be told, that’s when the movie finds itself, as players and coaches try to deal with all the hits they’ve taken from opponents and, in some cases, from family and friends.

The football footage had me twisting in my seat, as I started caring for the individual kids on the team and hoping they could meet the challenges before them.

The team plays for a Christian high school, where the coach also teaches a Bible course, so the message is an organic part of the movie.

“When the Game Stands Tall” is surprisingly subtle for the most part, though it veers into heavy-handedness when it comes to one particular “villain.”

Overall, its heart and its story elements seem to be in the right place.

I give “When the Games Stands Tall” a B plus.

It’s showing at the Cinemark in Tupelo, as well as Malcos in Oxford, Corinth and Columbus, Hollywood Premier Cinemas in Starkville and Movie Reel 4 in New Albany.

Look for movie reviews in Scene on Thursdays, and listen each Tuesday morning on Wizard 106.7 between 8:30 and 8:45 a.m.