Based on a true story, the lead protagonist Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger has become tired of forever playing the positions of center in neighborhood football games. He strives to become a great football player and eventually a student and gridiron star for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
No one, except Rudy’s friend Pete (Christopher Reed), supports his dream. But that doesn’t stop Rudy from going after and – just maybe – achieving the lifetime goal he has fantasized about ever since he was a boy.
There are some tearjerking moments in “Rudy” as actor Sean Astin (The Goonies, Courage Under Fire) shows he can hold his own in a leading role. His emotion is genuine and so is his appeal and screen presence.
Charles Dutton (Random Hearts, A Time to Kill) has another great film performance as Fortune, a groundskeeper at Notre Dame University. Jon Favreau impresses as D-Bob, Rudy’s classmate, teammate and comic relief.
Rudy’s father, Daniel (Ned Beatty) understands Rudy’s dream, but doesn’t want him to pursue it. “Chasing your dream causes nothing but heartache to those close to you,” Daniel says as he unravels the sad tale of his own father’s unrealized expectations which eventually lead to the breakup of his family. Beatty and Dutton put in great performances as they are able to convey any given emotion with subtle glances or facial expressions.
Director David Aspaugh (Hoosiers, TVs St. Elsewhere) does a good job with the camera work. He has some noticeable and distracting camera shaking at the end of a long rising view of the Notre Dame stadium, but he makes up for that fault with some excellent shots of football games.
The football action scenes are thrilling and make you feel like you’re right there in South Bend, Indiana watching the nostalgic games. Aspaugh gives you a guided tour of the campus with a wide array of sentimental views, typical for a sugar-coated “underdog” flick, but they happen to work quite well in this situation.
“We don’t care if you get hurt…the first team is going to pound the heck out of you…like what I’m saying so far?” says one of the assistant football coaches during a Notre Dame tryout. College football fanatics will get a lot of satisfaction in a montage of some great one-on-one hits accompanying the classic fight song “Wake up the Echoes”.
The story moves a little slow at times, but then drives to a satisfying emotional climax when the pieces of Rudy’s dream start to come together. He’s undersized, his hard work and gritty determination earns him some respect and, predictably, a few cheers. The story’s structure builds each character’s ideals and always gives good reasons why they have these ideals.
This movie has a strong moral center and comes recommended (*** out of four stars) even if you’re not a football enthusiast. A must see experience for anyone who has experienced the magic of Notre Dame.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler