This may seem like a strange place to start, but…
When trying to describe the perfect movie critic, I think everybody will agree that he or she would have watched every single movie ever made. Obviously, this is impossible, but this is one of many factors that distinguish amateur movie critics, like me, and the professionals: how literate is the person with cinema history? I implied in the introduction of this sports genre that I did not believe a good movie could come from this genre due to three reasons. When I wrote the post, I had never seen Rudy. Sometimes, a movie critic must admit he is wrong: good movies can come from this sports genre.
So what makes this so different than, let’s say, Remember the Titans or The Blind Side? Well, for starters, it spends more time filming football practice than football games. It spends half the movie having our athlete study. It’s a film about something important. And maybe best of all, Rudy is the name of a real person who studied, failed, fought, fell, and bleed, just to play one down on defense for the University of Notre Dame in a game that’s already won. No championship trophy was on the line. No scholarship was being awarded. Rather, it is Rudy’s dream that’s at stake here, and after being there with him on his journey, I cared about his humble dream more than I could ever care for some piece of hardware or bundle of money.
Rudy is the story of a boy who begins his journey with the loss of his friend; the one friend who ever believed 5’6 185 pound Rudy could play football at the University of Notre Dame. But not only is his physical stature, or lack thereof, getting in the way of his dreams, his dyslexia hinders his ability to do well enough in school to even get admitted into the university. In a plot that seems ready to dive head-first into countless clichés, and it does fall into some religious clichés, Rudy manages to avoid being overly sentimental through the credible performance of Sean Astin as Rudy and Charles Dutton as Fortune playing the much needed father-figure in Rudy’s life.
This isn’t to say Rudy doesn’t have other problems; in particular, a family and girlfriend whose development is often unclear or otherwise confusing. But one can only care about these problems so much when considering how invested you get into Rudy’s story. In an authentic-like feel of reading one’s biography, you flip the pages of this movie hoping for his success at every sentence. That’s because Rudy is the underdog. Rudy is told he isn’t good enough, and that he will never be good enough. We have all been there with Rudy at one point in our lives. When we try our very best in spite of what we are told, fall, cry, and wish we just listened to our doubters so we would be spared the pain of failure. But Rudy is the tale of the human spirit and how it can overcome the doubters, blossom new friendships, and make life worth living. Rudy is American Film Institute’s #54 most inspirational film of all time largely because his dreams come true in modest yet epic-feeling fashion, but I argue the movie could have ended without Rudy being carried off the field. This movie argues the struggle, the journey is more important than the final destination.
I was going to make this a quick review and write a separate post eventually concluding the sports genre, a genre I probably won’t come back to for a while since I will be returning to reviewing Pixar films followed by superhero films, but I have extended this review into a movie review (550-950 words) so to make my concluding remarks in regards to this genre: Rudy is how you make a good sports movie. It doesn’t do anything spectacularly well, but it avoids mistakes, it is well made, and most importantly, Rudy is inspiring.
Final Grade: B+ (88%)—Rudy’s life lifts our most improbable dreams into the forefront of our minds.