Forever Strong Reviews
The movie highlights two rugby teams, one that values winning on the field at all costs (Razorbacks), and one that values individual honor and character above all (Highland). Members of the former are not discouraged from underage drinking, drugs or other harmful personal practices in their private lives, so long as they win on the field. This is clear from a pool party scene near the beginning of the film, when Penning receives smuggled drugs while in juvenile detention for drunk driving, and when he returns to his team on probation after "juvi". Additionally, Penning's father, who is also the coach of the Razorbacks, does not discourage underhanded plays on the field, provided that the team wins and the referees don't see.
Highland, on the other hand, is a team founded on the basic precepts of personal honor and character. Coach Gelwix explicitly states that if team members work hard and behave honorably, they will find fulfillment in life and, coincidentally, often victory on the field. Having won twenty-one national championships, and coming in second in seven more over a 30-year period, it is difficult to compete with the real Highland team's record on the field ("Boys HS"). In the film, however, the team with low moral standards (Razorbacks) makes it all the way to the national championship and barely loses to Highland. The implicit message is that strong personal morals lead to only marginally better outcomes in worldly success. Further, it is not entirely clear from the film that the self-indulgent behavior of the Razorback players leads them to less happiness off the field.
Although the movie attempts to demonstrate that the road to success in both life and on the rugby field stems from adopting strong personal morals of self-discipline and noble behavior, the advantages are portrayed as less substantial than they are in reality. This drama would likely appeal to adolescent and adult viewers who enjoy inspirational coming of age movies. It will likely not appeal to those who are primarily seek superficial action, be it in the form of rugby games or special effects. The adolescent use of drugs and alcohol rules out younger viewers. Despite the ambiguity in the film, those who work hard and live virtuously have significantly higher chances of finding lasting happiness than those for whom short term victory is valued over long-term fulfillment.
After getting arrested, a troubled teen rugby star joins a new team and learns integrity, humility, and unity from his inspiring coach.
IS IT ANY GOOD? (GRADE: B+)
Solid based-on-a-true-story film by director Ryan Little (Saints and Soldiers) Capturing the essence of the values-based coaching style of legendary rugby coach Larry Gelwix, Forever Strong tells the story of a down-and-out teen who finds redemption and growth playing rugby for Gelwix. Though the film displays some sports movie clichés, it transcends them through the strength of its characters, writing, acting, and film-making.
IS IT OKAY FOR YOUR KIDS?
There are some mild profanities and the presence of raised middle fingers, as well as teen drinking and partying (portrayed as detrimental), a car accident, and rough rugby action.
ANY WORTHWHILE MESSAGES?
To meet their full potential, young men (and all people) should be strong and active, but more importantly courageous, true, faithful, and honest in all things. You can change, make amends for your mistakes, and be a better person. Honesty is the highest victory.
Ryan Little's 2008 film, "Forever Strong," is based on a true story about a Rugby Coach (Gary Cole) who teaches teenage misfits to win Rugby titles, as well as serve their community. Sean Farris stars as Rick, a cocky high school punk, and star athlete for the rugby team coached by his demanding father Rich Penning (Neal McDonough) in Flagstaff, Arizona. After nearly killing himself, and his girlfriend under the circumstances of a DUI, Rick lands himself in a juvenile detention center in Salt Lake City, Utah. I believe that even though this movie was a major hit and inspired many people all over, it had too many mistakes and unrealistic events that lead the viewer to question the script and quality of the film.
Sean Astin plays the role of a very sympathetic administrator, who takes it upon himself to be a friend to a troubled Rick Penning. Astin makes a deal with Rick that if he agrees to play for Highland Rugby, an actual high school located in Utah, his time spent in the detention center would be shortened. This triggers the first question. Why and how is a juvenile inmate from out of state allowed to play for a high school sports team where he is not enrolled? Last time I checked, Juvenile inmates were not aloud to play on any sports team, let alone play on a team as an easier way out of jail. However, this movie does a decent job of showing how sports and discipline and love can change even the most troubled of teenagers like Rick Penning.
Another thing that Little failed to accomplish in this film was to explain to the audience the actual game of rugby. I mean c'mon, if you're going to put on a film completely about rugby and the life lessons that come from it, you should at least explain somehow the rules and regulations of the game. Those who have never seen or let alone heard of the rare and unusual game of rugby are completely lost when watching this. In order to truly grab the audience's attention, it's important to have an explanation of everything that is going on in the film. Sports movies especially, should be inspiring and exciting. However, for a sports film to effectively do that, it's crucial that the rules of the game are clearly stated so that the viewer can understand completely what is going on. By being able to follow along and have a clear understanding of the game that is being played allows the viewer to be apart of the excitement and drama that comes along in a hard fought battle. I mean, its like going to a football or basketball game without the rules being explained and expecting to be involved and excited. You have to understand the game before you can follow along and truly feel the thrill that comes from watching an action packed game.
Don't get me wrong, Little did not ruin this film. There are many who praise him for what he did and the message that he delivered to the audience. However, as a viewer myself, I was confused and lost throughout much of the movie. It's also never completely clear why high school athletes and more specifically, rugby players, do ritual dances (also know as the haka) before matches. It actually seems quite silly to me and the effect of doing something like that would probably leave me more embarrassed than pumped up and ready to play.
Overall, this film left me wondering many things and didn't really do much justice like your classic sports film should. There is just too much that was left out and that didn't make sense that it was hard to capture the thrill and excitement that you hope for going into it. To those who follow and understand the strange sport of rugby, it would be a wise decision to watch this, but for everybody else looking for an inspiring sports film, go watch a boxing movie.