WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL

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WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL tells the true story of a high school football team that had a 151 game winning streak under coach Bob Ladouceur.
The opening montage informs viewers of how the De La Salle Spartans, a high school football team, has remained undefeated for many years through hard work and discipline. Though the coach has worked hard to get the team where it is, his goal has never been to keep the streak alive. Instead, he wants to make sure that his players grow into men with integrity and character.
After yet another successful undefeated season, the pressure is high for Coach Bob and his team. When Bob has a heart attack, it becomes apparent that the stress has taken a toll on not only him, but also his family, whom he’s neglected.
To make things more difficult, one of Coach Ladouceur’s most promising graduates, a man who has learned to be a good, godly man and who has just received a full-ride scholarship to play division one football, is gunned down tragically on the streets. After this incredibly dramatic event, all of the football team is shaken up, especially Coach Bob. This causes the rest of the team to lose sight of the coach’s main purpose not to win but to grow into God-honoring men. Their 151 winning streak is lost on the first game of the season.
With a tough schedule ahead and a town that’s disappointed in them, the team has to learn to rely on each other and reevaluate why they play the game.
WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL has a strong second half that ends on an inspiring, tear-jerking note. Though the acting is good, much of the story is disjointed, mostly in the first half. At times, it feels as if the characters have too many goals, and it’s hard to discern where the movie is going. This doesn’t take away much from the entertainment value, but the emotional impact of the story could have been much stronger. The football games are riveting and well shot and the characters are genuine.
All through the movie, it’s clear that Coach Ladouceur has been teaching the boys on his team the importance of humility. In one very touching scene, he brings his dejected and downcast team to a wounded veterans hospital to learn about serving others instead of serving yourself. The biblical themes are extremely apparent in WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL. It’s encouraging to see such a positive representation of the Christian faith, especially among young people. Ladouceur and his family had a realistic family dynamic, and the conflict that comes with it. However, the subplot that was supposed to tackle the ever-relevant issue of fatherhood and work/life balance was left underdeveloped and unresolved.
Overall, WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL is a movie that bucks against a culture that’s all about glorifying one’s ego and seeking personal pleasure. Instead of pursuing individual accomplishments and individual fame, the movie promotes an ideal of pursing the exaltation of others. It overtly highlights Matthew 23:12 (“Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, but those who humble themselves will be exalted”) as an example for living. WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL is a moving story for families with older children and teenagers that inspires love and humility.

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