"American Soccer Takes the Stage"
What You Need To Know:
Questionable elements in this movie include coarse language, smoking and drinking. Also, one player, Joe, a Haitian, openly practices voodoo. Several discussions take place between Joe and a Catholic player who is disturbed by the voodoo, but Joe convinces the Catholic player to accept voodoo as an “equally valid” belief system. The other parts of the movie are positive, however, with touching scenes of men working together and honoring their country with their amazing effort. THE GAME OF THEIR LIVES may not have the polish of HOOSIERS or RUDY, but true to its underdog formula, it delivers.
(BB, C, PP, O, FR, LL, A, D, M) Strong moral worldview with themes of unity, compassion and brotherhood among team members, emphasis on Catholicism and Christian faith of some team members, strong theme of patriotism as team represents country and honors veterans, and occult theme of one team member who practices voodoo and debates it with Christian team member, with false theology arising from debate that both Christianity and voodoo are “equally valid” faiths, whereas true Christianity teaches freedom to worship as one pleases but voodoo and other Non-Christian faiths are not equally valid; 12 light obscenities (including damn, hell, crap) among team members; no violence, sex or nudity; drinking, including one team member must drink to be able to board a plane without fear; and, cigarette use.
This spring in a theater near you THE GAME OF THEIR LIVES joins the genre of sports movies made to inspire and uplift moviegoers, like HOOSIERS, RUDY, and, more recently, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. The formula is a familiar one: meet the underdogs, watch them gain unity and skill, hold your breath as they face a wildly superior opponent, and pray that they win unexpectedly and exultantly. David Anspaugh and Angelo Pizzo’s latest addition to the all-American feel-good sports movie measures up to its predecessors in many ways.
THE GAME OF THEIR LIVES is the story of the hastily assembled and trained 1950 United States soccer team invited to compete against England’s formidable and favored team in Brazil at the World Cup competition. The British team included famed players Stan Mortensen and Billy Wright, who could handily lead their team to defeat the rougher American team, but in true-to-the-genre form, the plucky Americans say, “Not so fast, chaps!”
The American team is recruited from “the Hill,” an Italian community in St. Louis, Missouri, and from the East Coast, creating an interesting mix of rough and tumble “regular” guys and more privileged East Coasters. American players Frank Borghi (Gerard Butler), Walter Bahr (Wes Bentley), Pee Wee Wallace (Jay Rodan), and a host of scrappy players travel to New York city and struggle to bond with the East Coast recruits and create a team that can face England and Stan Mortensen (played by Bush singer/songwriter Gavin Rossdale) with half a chance. In the process, the American players ignite interest in soccer back home, interest which has grown to this day, especially among children and their parents.
THE GAME OF THEIR LIVES looks authentic, with many scenes shot on locations in St. Louis using locals as extras, and in Rio de Janeiro, giving the World Cup tournament a true Brazilian look. Anspaugh and Pizzo have collaborated before on RUDY and HOOSIERS, and they worked for the same look and feel for THE GAME OF THEIR LIVES, shooting on a short schedule and tight budget.
THE GAME OF THEIR LIVES is a good movie, but does not quite reach the level of quality and emotion of Anspaugh and Pizzo’s HOOSIERS and RUDY. The most interesting part of the movie is the relationships between the players, and watching them work to set aside their differences to try to defeat England. Living members of the American team were consultants for the production and were on set during much of the filming. It is heartening to see players from different backgrounds coming together and working to resolve their differences and put aside their pride for the sake of the team and the goal.
Patrick Stewart tells the story, in retrospect, as an older sportswriter who covered the players in St. Louis in the 1950s. Questionable elements in the movie are coarse language among the players, some smoking and drinking, and one player, Joe (Jimmy Jean-Louis), a Haitian, who practices voodoo openly and often. Several discussions take place between Joe and a Catholic player who is disturbed by the voodoo, but Joe convinces the Catholic player that a sincere belief is an acceptable belief. The movie also affirms Catholicism as an “equally valid” belief. (Editor’s Note: Of course, although true Christianity teaches freedom to worship as one pleases, it opposes voodoo and witchcraft, which are not really “equally valid.” Parents will need media wisdom to explain these issues properly to their children and teenagers.)
Despite the incidences of alcohol, smoking and voodoo, THE GAME OF THEIR LIVES is a worthwhile movie. It includes touching scenes of men working together, supporting one another, and honoring their country with their amazing effort. THE GAME OF THEIR LIVES may not have the polish of HOOSIERS or RUDY, but true to form, like an underdog American sport, it delivers.