(out of 5)
Football movies make up some of my favourite sports films, but that doesn’t mean we need more of them; still, this film by Peter Berg manages to be a hell of a lot less bombastic than cheesier fare like The Replacements or Any Given Sunday. It focuses on a team at a Texas high school who are put in the position to keep their hometown flame alive by winning the state championship. The team has had its victories in the past, putting no small pressure on the teenage boys who basically have no choice but to live up to their predecessors. The three boys focused on in the film find this accomplishment to be a Herculean task: Lucas Black has to take care of a mentally ill mother, Derek Luke injures his knee early in the season, and Garrett Hedlund keeps fumbling the ball before going home to an abusive father (country singer Tim McGraw) who is well past his glory years. There’s a lot more character detail than you’d expect from a movie of its kind, but most of it is familiar and the film is never as enjoyable as Remember The Titans. It’s also not effective in its attempt to recreate the 80s: a girl with admittedly hilarious hairsprayed hair asks Black if the reason he doesn’t have a girlfriend is because he’s gay, which he responds to calmly in the negative, an impossibility in the pre-Will & Grace era when a girl would never dare to ask this question and a guy would never answer without punching the nearest person out to prove her wrong.
Directed by Peter Berg
Cinematography by Tobias A. Schliessler
Produced by Brian Grazer
Production Design by Sharon Seymour
Costume Design by Susan Matheson
Actors index: Billy Bob Thornton