From the first “snap” of the movie, “When the Game Stands Tall” is an exciting movie and forcefully reminds watchers the meaning of teamwork and accountability.
Based on a true story, “When the Game Stands Tall” features the De La Salle High School football team that is famous for its winning streak of over 150 games. The film begins with the team about to win a state championship and extend the streak to 151 games. During this time, the Spartans are led by seniors T.K. Kelly and Cam Colvin, who were able to encourage their teammates to be accountable for and play for one another. In the offseason that followed, events such as the death of Colvin’s mother, the murdering of T.K. Kelly and Head Coach Bob Ladoucer suffering a heart-attack foreshadowed a relatively dim future for the De La Salle team. The beginning of the next season was showed the Spartans in a new light, as new players, such as big-shot receiver Tayshon Lanear, were more egocentric and diverted away from the team-centered values that Coach Ladoucer had preached for years. As a result, the team dropped both of their first two contests that season and the coaching staff had to take the team to a VA Hospital where rehabilitating soldiers taught the players the true meaning of team. After that experience, the team quickly bonded and went on to beat the top ranked team in the country and win another state championship.
The movie did a superb job of portraying emotions. This was evident during the intense scenes around the death of Cam Colvin’s mother, as well as the interactions within the Ladoucer family following Bob Ladoucer’s heart-attack. The determination of the Spartans after losing the winning streak was apparent and well portrayed. Also, in the few scenes where in-game dialogue was seen, viewers could see both the self-interested side of some of the players, as well as the desire for teamwork and victory displayed by other players. “When the Game Stands Tall” , however, fell short in giving viewers the in-game interactions between players during the seasons in which T.K. Kelly and Cam Colvin played. Dialogue from those games could have been useful in allowing viewers to see the difference in the older, always victorious teams and the newer, egomaniacal team that ruined the decade-long winning streak. Also, Coach Ladoucer was played as a very calm coach, whereas football coaches are usually loud and intense. Having a robust personality playing Coach Ladoucer may have made the coach seem more realistic.
Another area in which this film exceeded was showing the thought that characters put into plot-changing decisions. For example, when Bob Ladoucer realized that his aging message of teamwork was not successful with his new team, he felt unneeded at De La Salle and considered moving to Stanford University. In the end, Ladoucer stayed true to himself and continued conveying the same message to his players. Secondly, when running back Chris Ryan had the opportunity to break the state scoring record and please his demanding father in his final game at DLS, Ryan decided to heed Coach Ladoucer’s message and focus on the team rather than individual achievements. The emotions, decisions and lessons that were shown in “When the Game Stands Tall” made the movie a moving viewing experience.
After viewing the film, I would most definitely recommend it. As an avid football fan, I found it easy to follow the plot, but viewing the movie does not require too much knowledge of football and the lessons conveyed are applicable to anyone. The plot is engaging and contains very few shortcomings.