American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
To fully understand what’s in store in the real-life football parable “When the Game Stands Tall,” it’s probably good to know that star Jim Caviezel’s most noteworthy film role was as Jesus in “The Passion of the Christ.”
Turns out his ability to preach and sway his disciples comes in pretty handy as Bob Ladouceur, the high-school coach behind the miraculous decade-plus, record-breaking streak of 151 wins achieved by the De La Salle Spartans of suburban Concord, Calif.
Stoic, soft-spoken and solemn—think the opposite of blustery Al Pacino in “Any Given Sunday”—Coach Lad, as he is called, doesn’t so much give pep talks as deliver soul-enriching sermons. He underplays the importance of collecting trophies and beating opponents and instead promotes a sense of brotherhood, having your teammate’s back and pushing yourself to the limit and beyond to achieve your goals.
His approach to the game, one that he has given most of his life to, is perhaps best summed up in a quotation from Matthew 23:13 that is recited onscreen: “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled. And whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” In other words, it is not about you, it is about others.