Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Movie Review - Facing the Giants

I've never been much a of a sports fan, but that has been changing in recent years. One thing I've always enjoyed--despite my lackadaisical athletic ability--are sports movies. There's just something about them that gets me in the guts. Remember The Bad News Bears? Wonderful. Chariots of Fire? Unforgettable. More recently, we had A Knight's Tale, which despite it's historical nature and playful plot is, at its heart, a sports movie.

Facing the Giants has been out on DVD for a while, now. But I just saw it.

Grant is a discouraged high school football team coach who has just barely managed to hang onto his job after his sixth consecutive losing season. He and his wife live in an old fix-er-upper with a mysterious stench, the car dies on a regular basis and they can't seem to have children. Oh, and the infertility is Grant's fault. His players abandon him every year during their senior year, seeking out winning schools while in search of sports scholarships. So Grant only has 32 players. The player's parents and some of the school faculty are plotting to have him fired.

In the grand scheme of things, these aren't huge problems, except the infertility. All the major characters have their health and a place to live. However, the devil is always in the details, and it's the small things that tend to wear us down, isn't it? It's Grant's determination that wins our sympathy.

After prayer and discussions with the pastor/principal and his wife, Grant decides to take a new approach. During one unforgettable scene, he illustrates to the rest of the team how than can do so much better than they suspect. He picks the biggest, strongest guy on the team and gets the guy to promise to give his absolute best--everything he has. Then, the coach ties a blindfold around his eyes. On his hands and feet, he must crawl as far as he can go--with another guy clinging to his back. Grant then proceeds to urge him down the field, reminding him of his promise, telling him to give all he has, to do his best until he has nothing left to give.

The movie is worth watching for this scene alone. There are few times in my life when I gave a task everything I had. Basic Training was one of those times. The military--no matter what your branch of service--has a way of dragging your best out of you. Giving birth through a failed epidural was another. Imagine how much better we can all do in life if we ran around giving it our all-out best until we had nothing left. One girl on my high school cross-country team used to vomit after every race. She is one of those who gave it her all. She also was one of our top runners. I try to give my writing my best--whether on this blog or elsewhere--but writing isn't a performance sport, and it can be tweaked and improved right up until it's published, or until you hit "publish post" and the feed readers suck it out to the Internet at large.

This is a Christian movie, and it broke into the mainstream a few years ago. It has the message that if you give God everything you have, He will overflow your life with blessings. I'm not going to argue with the theology behind this message, but I did think the movie would have been stronger had there been one problem left unsolved by the end, perhaps leaving the characters feeling strong enough to face it. A father in a wheelchair is still in the wheelchair at the end, but that's about it

I know that the movie is trying to send a message, but I think it also sets up too many expectations, especially for non-believers. We will all always have problems to contend with, for as long as we are on this world.

Still, I loved this movie. It was funny and touching, and reduced me to tears at several points. I should have seen the ending coming, but I didn't. It just about sent me over the edge. It's some great storytelling.

Facing the Giants - Amazon USA, UK, Canada
Internet Movie Database Entry

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