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Title: When the Game Stands Tall

Movie: :4stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :4.5stars:
Extras: :3stars:

HTS Overall Score:85

One of the things that world agrees upon is their love of sports. We all seem to have a love in about every different sport out there. We have great basketball movies, soccer movies, baseball movies, hockey movies, hey, even movies about Bowling (I’m looking at you there “Kingpin”). With that in mind, there is nothing that gets fans screaming more than a team of guys smashing into each on with an oblong spherical ball made of pigskin. I haven’t ever even played football and it’s the one sport that I end up screaming my lungs out, whether it be in a movie or live on television. There’s just something electrifying and primal about those two teams, huddling down as if they’re soldiers in a trench and gritting their teeth for pain, guts and glory. I saw “When the Game Stands Tall” and rolled my eyes, because it didn’t look like one of the legendary football films of old that I grew up on and thought it looked a bit childish. Part of my prediction came true, as this is a much different type of football movie than most, but it certainly wasn’t childish.

Some teams have huge winning streaks, but not team has ever topped the 151 game winning streak that De La Salle high school enjoyed under the coaching of real life coach Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel). Most sports movies about a huge streak like that start out in the gutter, slowly working their way up to the top, but “When the Game Stands Tall” starts with them at their peak, just before the 151st game that propels them to too much glory. Riding high on their incredible victory, the seniors leave and hand over the reins to the juniors of last year, a group that has begun to drink their Kool-Aid. It all starts with a bang, as one of the new seniors ends up dead, shot in a tragic turn of events. Bob Ladouceur suffers a stroke that sends him to the hospital and then De La Salle suffers their first loss in years. All that they thought they had earned came crashing to the ground around them. Bob realizes that they got too caught up in the glory of WINNING, rather than working together as a team and enjoying each other on the field. It’s an age old story, pride cometh before a fall.

With the team in shambles, Bob and his second in command, Terry Eidson (Michael Chiklis) have to show these kids what a TEAM is. It may sound cheesy, but it rings true. There is no “I” in team, especially in a sport where you have to rely on your team mates to even do you own job properly. Slowly, but surely, De La Salle works their tail off to regain a little bit of their dignity and face off against their toughest opponent yet, Bellevue high, the #1 ranked team in the nation. Bob has to make decisions about whether he wants to leave the team and coach for Stanford, and his son Danny has to come to grips with his father being the coach. Other characters have their own demons to struggle with. Chris Ryan has to deal with the stereotypical father who wants to live vicariously through his son’s accomplishments, some have to deal with the loss of a friend, others the knowledge that they will never be a front runner.


What makes this movie unique is that it’s really a startling contrast to your average sports movie. So many movies, no matter how great they really are as films, tend to focus on the individual winnings. The glory of the game itself, and how you have to sacrifice everything for the love of the game. Watching characters so bloody and bruised that they will strap on a brace with a shattered ankle just to win. While that is an amazing show of determination, it is ultimately self-defeating as you give up a piece of yourself for glory and personal gain. Coach Ladouceur makes himself a different beast as he instills humility and teamwork in his players. There is no grandstanding, no end zone celebration, there is respect to the players, the coaches and the fans. It’s really what MAKES Bob Ladouceur who he is. A man who will drive you to victory, but not at the expense of your personal honor, or the player’s safety. De La Salle is a Catholic high school, and the values that Jim Caviezel himself ascribes to come through rather clearly. The religious overtones are never overly oppressive, or in your face, but there are obvious enough, especially in the character displayed on screen.

The movie itself is not flawless. Sometimes the “go team” mentality can get a bit clichéd and once or twice a little bit cheesy. However, those moments are few and far between, making them stick out when you notice them and then soon forgotten as you watch an amazingly choreographed football game. The only other real complaint that I have is that the ACTUAL ending feels a bit rushed, especially since you though the movie was going to end 20 minutes earlier with the Bellevue game. The ending message was beautiful, but I felt it could have been structured a bit better and would have added a bit more fluidity to the last few minutes of the movie.


Rated PG for thematic material, a scene of violence, and brief smoking

Video :4.5stars:
“When the Game Stands Tall” is presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 encoded in AVC for the Blu-ray presentation, giving a fabulous picture for us to enjoy. The image is a bit on the squeaky clean digital side, so those looking for an old fashioned filmic look will leave disappointed, but it certainly is a great canvas to show off some incredibly looking colors and a level of detail that is startling in its clarity. Fine detail is readily apparent as every stitch and fiber on the football jerseys is easily distinguishable, down to the loose threads on the seams, and facial detail reveals every nook and cranny of an actor’s face. Pieces of dirt and sod from the field are kicked up right into the viewer’s face, giving you a palpable taste of the excitement that’s just through the TV glass. Contrasts look excellent and skin tones look amazing as well. Sometimes there is a bit of a golden hue to the color grading and faces can look a bit sallow, but never to the point of irritation. The dark fares just as well as the light, showing off crystal clear detail and no sign of nasty crush showing up ever.

Audio :4.5stars:
Sony has a way of delivering the goods on the audio and the 5.1 DTS-HD MA track certainly doesn’t disappoint. Dialogue for the film is perfect, with pinpoint clarity and centered right up front. The front soundstage teems with action during the games and shows some awesome directionality as you can hear the crowd shift and move as the player bounces around the field. Surround activity is superb with the crowd once again making its presence known as they engulf the audience in their cheers. The battle of over the ball dominates all 6 channels with an aggressive tone, bones rattling and helmets cracking against each other with vicious glee. LFE is pulse pounding and throbbing throughout the 2 hours and can receded into the back ground when necessary. One thing that really gets a football movie going is not only the playing, but the score. The orchestral score lashes the viewer and crowd to a frenzy, lifting you out of your chair and cheering, even though you know the eventual outcome. A superb track that Sony should be well pleased with.

Extras :3stars:

• 2 Audio Commentaries
• Deleted & Extended Scenes
• Undefeated: The Making of "When the Game Stands Tall"
• Gridiron Action
• The Heart and Soul of a Program: Bob Ladouceur
• Previews

Overall: :4stars:

“When the Game Stands Tall” stands much differently than other inspiring football movies. The glory is there, but it’s given an edge of humility and passion that feels refreshing after feeling so emotionally drained after your standard sports movie. There are a few negatives about the film that keep it from truly being great, mainly in the pacing and a few lines of dialogue, but it was black horse that certainly surprised me in a pleasant way. The audio and video are top notch and the extras are solid with multiple commentaries and a great set of deleted scenes. Most definitely recommended

Additional Information:

Starring: James Caviezel, Alexander Ludwig, Michael Chiklis
Directed By: Thomas Carter
Written By: Scott Marshall Smith
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: ENGLISH: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Portuguese DTS-HD MA 5.1, French, Spanish DD 5.1
Studio: Sony
Rated: PG
Runtime: 115 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: December 9th 2014

Buy When the Game Stands Tall Blu-ray on Amazon

Recommendation: Watch It

More about Mike

2,072 Posts
Thanks for the review. I will see this on amazon prime.. The trailer looks good and I never heard of this high school team but that is one long winning streak. Wow!

1,546 Posts
Man, I missed the review last week. I love these sports inspirational films. As was the case with many of the movies in 2014, I wanted to watch this one, but just somehow never got around to it...

Thanks for the review, Mike, I will have to check this one out!
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