Forever Strong Reviews
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.