Don’t miss this movie! Actor and producer put good values into When the Game Stands Tall Print
Written by By Mary C. Uhler, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

At this year’s annual Catholic Media Conference held in Charlotte, N.C., those of us attending were given the opportunity to watch a new movie called When the Game Stands Tall. After viewing the movie, we also had the privilege of talking with the film’s star, Jim Caviezel, and producer, David Zelon.

The program at our conference told us a little bit about the movie. The reason it was shown at a Catholic Media Conference — besides being a great film — is that the movie tells the remarkable real-life journey of a football coach at a Catholic high school in California.

Coach Bob Ladouceur (played by Caviezel) took the De La Salle High School Spartans from obscurity to a 151-game winning streak that shattered all records for any sport. Ladouceur retired in January of 2013 after winning his last state championship in December of 2012.

The movie is based on a book of the same name by Neil Hayes, a former  Chicago Sun-Times and Contra Costa Times sportswriter. The movie is scheduled to be released in theaters on August 22. I encourage everyone to see this movie.

Not just a football story

As a football fan, I was prepared to like this film. However, I don’t think someone has to be a fan to enjoy When the Game Stands Tall. Although the movie is about high school football, it’s really about life and faith.

That’s because Coach Ladouceur is more than a football coach. He’s also a religion teacher at De La Salle High School, as well as a husband and father. The faith element in the movie is subtle, but it is woven throughout the story.

As some promotion materials for the movie say, “More important than his incredible streak of 151 victories, Coach Bob Ladouceur is a teacher who invested his career in helping young men learn the value of life’s most important virtues and lessons.”

In fact, the coach says, “The streak was never our goal.” Instead, he emphasizes the importance of sacrifice, commitment, and teamwork. He stresses that it is teamwork — not one individual’s effort – that should be put first.

Actor lives his faith

It was a wonderful opportunity to talk with Caviezel and Zelon after watching this powerful movie. Many people will recognize Jim Caviezel as the actor who portrayed Jesus in The Passion of the Christ.

Caviezel, who is an active Catholic, said he himself went to a Catholic high school. As an actor, he has come into the film industry and tries to live his faith, he said. He strives to make movies that his children and grandchildren could watch. However, he pointed out that his movies are real. “I have to make authentic movies,” he said, which might include some swearing. However, the characters are redeemed at the end of the movie.

Before filming this movie, Caviezel visited with Coach Ladouceur at De La Salle High School. “When I met Bob, he was very frank, very real about his strengths and weaknesses,” he said. It wasn’t so much what the coach said, but how he lived his life. Caviezel said that “people follow those who lead by example,” such as Coach Ladouceur and  the late Green Bay Packers Coach Vince Lombardi, who “went to Mass every day and won championships.”

He admitted that it’s difficult to make a movie about someone who is still alive. “You can’t just imitate the character. Since I played basketball, I was able to talk about that. He (Coach Ladouceur) allowed me to be with the coaches on the sidelines and I watched films.”

Producer wants to make good movies

David Zelon is a producer who has tried to make meaningful movies. One of his favorites is Soul Surfer, a 2011 movie about the life of surfer Bethany Hamilton, who lost her left arm in a shark attack when she was 13 years old. I haven’t seen this film, but apparently it, too, emphasizes good values.

Zelon said of When the Game Stands Tall, “This movie changed my life. I would like it to be a gigantic box office success. If it does well, it will allow me to do more stories like this.”

We movie-goers can do our part. Go to see When the Game Stands Tall. Tell your family and friends about it. Don’t miss this movie! If enough people go to see it, more good movies like this will be made.