October 26, 1993 -- ``Rudy,'' the latest football movie to hit town is one of those inspirational films that you can't help but like.
This Tri-Star production feels more like a Disney film that the recent Touchstone hit, ``The Program.'' The story is full of all those old-fashioned values like hard work, determination, toughness and believing in yourself and following your own dreams. It comes off like a Horatio Alger story.
What surprised me was the good performance by Sean Astin. I have seen Astin before in other films and did not think he could carry a film like ``Rudy,'' but he carries this film on his back, appearing in nearly every scene.
``Rudy'' is based on a true story of a boy who dreams for years about attending Notre Dame University and playing for its football team. He is told it is an foolish dream, because he's too small to play football and is also a poor student. Nevertheless, Rudy refuses to give up. He goes to South Bend and encounters a kindly priest (well-played by Robert Prosky) who gets him into nearby Holy Cross University. The priest tells Rudy that if he keeps his grades up he may be able to transfer to Notre Dame.
At Holy Cross, Rudy discovers he has dyslexia and is able to overcome the learning disability. His grades improve dramatically. He manages to worm his way onto the grounds crew at Notre Dame's stadium. He does anything he can to become part of the university and the team.
Eventually, he becomes a Notre Dame student and also makes the practice football team. Being a practice player is a thankless job. He is constantly running the opponent's defenses against the ``real'' Notre Dame team.
Rudy does his practice team job with such gritty determination and courage he becomes a legend of sorts, respected by nearly everyone associated with the team. But will he be able to graduate from Notre Dame and will he actually get to play for the real Notre Dame team?
These questions are answered in the film's final, dramatic scenes and during the credits at the end of the film. The way those questions are answered goes way beyond the sentimentality, sports cliches and stereotyping offered by most films of this genre, such as ``Hoosiers'' (Angelo Pizzo wrote the screenplays for both ``Hoosiers'' and ``Rudy''). This film has more honesty and more real heart than ``Hoosiers'' or most other sports films. It is truly inspirational without every having to resort to manipulation.
At the conclusion of the film, there's not a dry eye in the house. Anyone who is not moved by this film has something else in their chest where their heart ought to be.
Charles S. Dutton, who plays the head of the Notre Dame grounds crew, turns in a fine supporting performance as a guy with a tough exterior who is sympathetic to Rudy. Ned Beatty does a good job as Rudy's doubting father in the film. All of the supporting players turn in fine performances, including the actors portraying two Notre Dame coaches in the film, Ara Parseghian and Dan Devine. Parseghian is portrayed sympathetically, while Devine comes off as a pretty narrow-minded character. The real Rudy Ruttinger, on whose life the film is based, also appears in the film as a spectator during a football game.
This film rates an A.
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