Sitting on a win streak virtually unmatched by any other team across any sport, De La Salle High School in California also possessed 12 championships during their record-breaking period. At the end of another winning season, the team took its leave and the drama finally caught up to them. A combination of health issues, attitude, and the loss of a member of their sports family all led to a surprisingly rough start to their next season. Lacking their honored coach and seemingly missing their trademark focus on teamwork, De La Salle dropped their first two games to opponents on the road. Feeling defeated and torn, they faced the toughest opponent in their recent history, Long Beach Polytechnic. Feeling undersized and outmatched, Coach Ladouceur and his team had to find a way to save their season. Regardless of the outcome of the game, they still faced a number of challenges that needed to be faced before they could truly feel like champions.
Starring: Jim Caviezel (Bob Ladouceur), Alexander Ludwig (Chris Ryan), Michael Chiklis (Terry Eidson), Laura Dern (Bev Ladouceur), Clancy Brown (Mickey Ryan), Ser’Darius Blain (Cam Colvin), Stephen James (TK Kelly), Matthew Daddario (Danny Ladouceur), Joe Massingill (Beaser), Jessie Usher (Tayshon Lanear), Matthew Frias (Arturo), LaJessie Smith (Jamal), Richard Kohnke (Rick Salinas)
Director Thomas Carter’s sports drama retold the story of how the De La Salle Spartans amassed such an impressive winning streak, lost their way, and found their honor and pride again. While the film had many of the elements one would expect in an engaging sports story, the acting and attempts at telling the dramatic elements fell a little shorter than anticipated. The obsession with the streak was clear in many of the scenes, but the impressiveness of the achievement was very unevenly represented between the overly pensive coach and the combination of his players and fans. There were several smaller stories that had significant potential, but each of them seemed to lack the appropriate development or missed an opportunity to be more prevalently features.
Of the different elements of the story, the coach’s challenges were the most clearly highlighted. Starting with his hesitation about the upcoming year and his inner conflict about how he performed as an effective coach, teacher, and father, his smoking and the stress finally got to him. Taking the spring and summer away from coaching, his son distanced himself while looking for his father to be more of a coach and the team seemed to lose its way. The losses certainly got his attention, but he was more concerned with their shifting focus of his players toward obsession with the streak and not on each other. Nearly leaving it all for a chance at a college position, he stuck it out through the remainder of the season and remains at De La Salle ever since.
As for the players and other coaches, much of the story followed the death of TK Kelly, Chris Ryan’s pursuit of a state record, Danny’s issues with his father, and Tayshon’s me-first attitude. Each of these stories were highlighted through the coach’s involvement at varying degrees, but there always felt to be a lack of energy in the telling of the drama. Some of the more powerful moments involved the strained relationship between Chris Ryan and his father, but the storyline seemed to be missing a sense of resolution (even in the final game of the film). Danny’s issues seemed to be more that of an entitled teenager who expected a lot of his father. Tayshon’s selfishness had forced moments where he became more team-oriented and then lost his way again. TK Kelly and Cam’s relationship seemed to have the most opportunity and elicited the greatest emotion but also seemed out of place when the focus went back to the current team rather than the former teammates.
The messages are positive and the intent was clear, but the overall presentation left a lot to be desired.
Dan’s Rating: 2.5/5