When the Game Stands Tall
By Sandie Angulo Chen,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Football biopic has positive messages but doesn't score.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie is full of inspirational adages and messages like: "Don't let a game define who you are, let your lives do that"; adversity teaches more than triumph; football isn't about the score but about the team; "perfect effort" is what makes for a winning team; and being on a team isn't about your personal records but about looking out for the person next to you. These messages will all sound familiar to dedicated athletes, but they're still teachable statements for all kids and teens. There's also a strong focus on faith and its application to teamwork and sportsmanship.
Positive Role Models
Coach Lad is the epitome of a coach; he's kind, firm, loving, and inspiring. As portrayed, he helps turn immature young athletes into mature, thoughtful young men of honor and compassion. He's also willing to admit when he's wrong and when he can do better. Mrs. Lad is patient and supportive but also speaks her mind when she feels her husband is being short-sighted.
Violence & Scariness
A character is shot and killed, execution-style, by a young man with a gun. A father is abusive toward his son. Two friends get into a shoving match. Football players on the field get into a fight that's broken up.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Young couples briefly hug and hold hands; a guy asks a friend if he's getting it on with his beautiful girlfriend, and the guy says he and his girlfriend are "waiting for the big day." A husband and wife kiss.
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Infrequent words/insults include "damn," "lame," "stupid," and "dumb."
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Products & Purchases
Dick's Sporting Goods, Nike, Adidas, Gatorade, Cadillac, and other sports brands.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The coach smokes cigarettes. Teens drink at a party.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that When the Game Stands Tall is based on the true story of Coach Bob Ladouceur, who has the distinction of coaching the high school football team with the longest winning streak in sports history. This sports biopic -- which is packed with positive messages about teamwork, hard work, and learning from adversity -- is fine for older tweens and teens, though those who know and enjoy the game are most likely to fully appreciate the movie. There's virtually no language or sex (aside from some kissing and references to "getting it on"), but there is some startling violence, including the senseless, execution-style death of a beloved character. Teens drink at a party, and the coach smokes cigarettes. Watch through the credits to see footage of the real Coach Lad (who has a couple of cameos as another coach) saying some of the same lines depicted in the movie.
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Where to Watch
Videos and Photos
When the Game Stands Tall
Based on 5 parent reviews
Amazing story. Excellent message. Great for family!
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Teen movie that is actually OK for teens to see
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What's the Story?
WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL is based on the true story of Coach Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel), the head coach of the De La Salle Spartans, the high school football team with the longest-running winning streak (151 games) in the history of the sport. Instead of following the team's winning years, the movie chronicles Coach Lad's tumultuous season guiding the troubled team that ultimately broke the streak. Once the team loses, they also lose their way, while at the same time dealing with a tragedy that strikes one of their most promising recent alums. And at home, Coach Lad must consider the personal cost of committing so much to a team, possibly at the expense of his wife (Laura Dern) and growing kids.
Is It Any Good?
There are occasional touching or powerful moments, like when Coach Lad has a serious stroke or when the most charming player on the team is brutally shot. The acting is fine, too. So then why is this such a boring and predictable movie? Attempts to elevate ideas about faith and adversity are stymied by the weak plot, which -- with the exception of the side story about two former star players -- is really formulaic. The actual football scenes are engaging enough, but the off-the-field drama veers into maudlin territory and has very little humor. If you've exhausted better football flicks, this one will do, but unlike its subjects, this isn't the winningest sports tale.
Even people who don't care about sports usually love sports movies, because there's something viscerally appealing about rooting for an underdog or celebrating the first integrated team or just watching an exceptional athlete beat exceptional odds. But When the Game Stands Tall is a movie about a team that finally loses two games in a row after a 151-game winning streak, which doesn't exactly inspire much investment. There isn't a sports-movie cliche the filmmakers leave unexplored. Soft-spoken but intense coach? Check. Diverse team that includes down-and-out kids hoping for a better life? Check. Long-suffering coach's wife who would love to see more of her husband? Check. Emotionally abusive father who cares about his son's records more than the team? Check? And so on. Of course, without having read the book on which the movie was based, it's not possible to know whether these predictable elements are true to life.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about why so many sports movies are inspiring. Why do you think there are so many football movies? What are some of your other favorites in the genre?
What do you think about Coach Lad's lessons about learning from adversity, putting the team above yourself, and learning to become men, not players?
Do you agree that the team made the right call at the end of the movie? Why was what they did a tribute to their coach?
- In theaters: August 22, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: December 9, 2014
- Cast: Jim Caviezel, Alexander Ludwig, Michael Chiklis
- Director: Thomas Carter
- Inclusion Information: Black directors
- Studio: TriStar Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts
- Run time: 115 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic material, a scene of violence, and brief smoking
- Last updated: March 14, 2023
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