by Phillip Wilcox "Our Movie Demon"
Sports films are typically a great vessel for inspiring stories to tell visually. Most stories are based on reality and real people. Go ahead, think of some of your favorite sports films. What's so fantastic about these stories and these films, is the undeniable fact that whether they are based on truth, or a work of fiction, they will inspire, they will uplift you, and they tell stories of underdogs whom, against every hardship thrown at them, every struggle, every obstacle set in front of them, they overcome them all. They rise up, and whether they win or lose in their chosen sport (most of the time they win), they all have a moral victory that is attached to their journey. And I think that's what makes the sports film genre special. And it's what also makes this film, Woodlawn special as well!
What sets this sports movie apart from most is that it is faith based, as well as it being based on a true story. It tells of a High School football team and they're coach struggling to stay afloat during the racial integration of schools in the 1960's. Until one day a chaplain came in and spoke to the football team, giving much more than an inspirational speech, he gave them a belief in something much higher than football or themselves. Thus rousing the team to become better not just as a football team, but as individuals.
Now, I'm not about to start preaching about anything that some people they themselves may or may not believe in. I am so not about that. What I am about is turning people on to films that they stir conversations, that stir emotion, or thoughts that could go beyond fear or humor. There were certain aspects about the film that I myself didn't really respond to. But the overall message and meaning behind the story was really uplifting and even had me welling up.
The film had a terrific cast such as Sean Astin, C. Thomas Howell, Nic Bishop, Sherri Shephard, Joy Brunson, Brett Rice, Virginia Williams and the great Jon Voight! It dawned on me as I watched this film that Mr. Voight is no stranger to playing football coaches in his career! He played a college football coach in a film called Glory Road, and who could forget the dispicable High School coach Bud Kilmer he played in Varsity Blues! In this film he pulls a complete 360 and plays a polar opposite character named Paul 'Bear' Bryant - The kind of man you'd love to have a grandfather, full of wisdom and integrity. His character tries to recruit a gifted player on the Woodlawn Football Team by the name of Tony Nathan - A soft spoken, good-hearted high school kid whose major hurtle on a day to day basis is dealing with the on-going racism and discrimination experienced by him and witnessing it around him during that era. I have to say that this being his very first debut appearance in a feature film, only having 3 days to prepare for the role, newcomer Caleb Castille's performance Tony Nathan is nothing short of remarkable! It is truly something to marvel at! I sincerely hope to see more of this kid in more films!
If you're trying to decide whether to see the film or not; I say see it for the message and the meaning, see it for the story, for the inspiration! If you thoroughly enjoy sports dramas, and even enjoyed the likes of "Remember The Titans", then definitely check out this film! Now available on Blu-ray/DVD and VOD! finally out for people to see. Do so.