Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.



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Film #358


Rudy has always been told that he was too small to play college football. But he is determined to overcome the odds and fulfill his dream of playing for Notre Dame.

Year 1, Day 358

BEFORE: Wrapping up the biographical films is Rudy. Starring Sean Astin as the titular character, this film is another one that’s been on my list for a while, especially after it was brilliantly incorporated into The Newsroom. Special note: this time next week, I’ll be watching my last film for the first year of this movie marathon. That means after this, there’s just seven more films left. I hope they’re some good ones. 

AFTER: There have been a few underdog film this month in the marathon, most notably The Karate Kid and Cinderella Man. None of them have anything on Rudy. None of them have characters that overcome as much as Rudy Ruettiger (Sean Astin) does, are as determined as Rudy is, or are as genuinely supportive in the end as the cast of Rudy is. This isn’t hyperbole; it’s just how it is.

Of course, the film is based of the true story of Rudy making his way to Notre Dame to play football so you may think half the work is already done. In a sense it is, but the film just handles the adaptation and the structure so well. Going back to look at the timing is unbelievable. The first quarter of the film (around thirty minutes) shows Rudy at home in Joliet, Illinois. The next quarter has Rudy going to Notre Dame to try and make his dream come true. The third quarter (so this is an hour into the film now) sees the acceptance letter come in the mail and walk-on tryouts for the football team take place. Finally, the last quarter of the film (it’s funny how the film can be broken up into quarters just like a football game) has the emotional conclusion. The reason I said it’s unbelievable to look at this timing is because as your watching the film, none of it matters. You still get the sense of time passing (through some great montages) but nothing lingers. When things need to progress to the next step, they do, and not one area of his life feels overdone or not covered enough.

But besides the amazing structure of the film and fitting all this in such a way that flies by, there’s something more important, and that’s who Rudy is. Ever since he was a kid, people were telling him what he couldn’t do. That he could never get into Notre Dame and that he could never play football, let alone play on Notre Dame’s team. His friends, his brothers, and especially his father all didn’t believe in him. They thought he was a fool, wasting his time by daydreaming. But Rudy never lets them get to him. He soldiers on, not just wanting to make his dream come true, but knowing that he’ll make his dream come true. And to help him, there are just a handful of supportive people for the countless that don’t believe. There’s Father Cavanaugh (Robert Prosky) who helps get Rudy into Holy Cross to make Notre Dame a possibility, there’s D-Bob (Jon Favreau) who helps Rudy study so he can get into Notre Dame, and there’s the groundskeeper Fortune (Charles S. Dutton) who provides encouragement that he can make the Fighting Irish.

It’s inspiring to see just how hard work and determination can pay off. Rudy is able to fight the odds, fight all common sense, and shows what a big heart and dedication to a cause really means. And I’ll tell you why all of what I’ve just said isn’t a spoiler. Sure, I gave away the fact that Rudy fulfills his dream in the end but: (a) you should expect that going into an underdog film; and (b) it doesn’t matter. I knew he was going to succeed coming into the film and I even knew about a pivotal scene at the end of the film. But what I felt when I actually saw what happens was more than I was expecting. Knowing what happens is one thing; watching them happen and to see the reactions and changes in everyone’s attitude is quite another.

You really get swept away by Rudy that any prior knowledge, any preconceptions about what the film might be like because it’s a sports film or an underdog film, goes right out the window. It’s an uplifting experience from beginning to end and no matter how much I try to say about it here won’t even compare to what it will be like actually watching the film yourself. And my recommendation to see this film cannot be any stronger. You don’t even have to be a football fan; all you need to be is a fan of a great story.

RATING: 5 out of 5