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When the Game Stands Tall | 2014 | PG | - 1.3.2

In Concord, California the De La Salle High School Football Coach (Jim Caviesel) and Assistant Coach (Michael Chiklis) train their team differently from other coaches, using techniques that help team members through tough times on and off the field. The result is a 151-game winning streak from 1992 through 2003. Based on a true story. Also with Laura Dern, Alexander Ludwig, Clancy Brown, Ser'Darius Blain, Stephan James, Gavin Casalegno and Matthew Daddario. Directed by Thomas Carter. [1:55]

SEX/NUDITY 1 - A husband kisses his wife on the cheek in three scenes. After a football game, a teen girl kisses a teen boy briefly on the lips and hugs him. Four teenage girls in a convertible wave at a star high school football player and he smiles.
 A male patient appears nude in bed with his lower body covered by sheets as a teen boy finishes a sponge bath on the patient for a nurse who had to leave; the boy looks confused and a little embarrassed.
 High school cheerleaders wear sleeveless high-necked uniforms that reveal legs. A few teen boys are seen shirtless in training scenes. A woman wears an undershirt under a long sleeved robe that reveals a bit of cleavage.


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VIOLENCE/GORE 3 - A teenage boy approaches the driver's side window of a car where another teenage boy is sitting, says, "Screw you!" and then shoots (the camera cuts away); the victim's father and grandmother appear on the scene, wailing and struggling with police officers blocking the way and we then see the boy lying on the ground with his cheek on the pavement, eyes closed and we hear that he is dead (no blood is seen); a funeral scene shows a casket being lifted from a hearse with men and women grieving around the casket and in the church and a friend later visits his mausoleum and leaves flowers.
 An abusive father continually shouts at his teen son about his performance on the high school football team and several arguments occur: the father and son sit in a parked car, where the father demands that the son break football records and the loud argument ends in the father grabbing and slamming his son into the passenger side window several times (no blood); in a late night scene after the football bus returns to the school, the father begins shouting and demanding that the boy begin practicing touchdown runs in the parking lot and when the boy refuses the father slugs him hard in the stomach; a coach insists that the physical abuse must stop and the father leaves, but keeps shouting insults and demands at his son from the stands in subsequent games.
 A man has a heart attack as he lies down on his bed; he gags and gurgles, waking his wife, who shouts for her son to call 911 and tells her husband to look her in the eye (his eyes appear glassy and his mouth forms a grimace as he holds the left side of his chest); we see the man in a hospital room, where a doctor tells him that he had the Widowmaker heart attack and requires five stents to be surgically inserted into blood vessels.
 Long shots and close-ups of a high school football game between a team matched with opponents that are all heavier include heavy hits and body slams, hard tackles in which we hear loud crunching, pile-ons, body slams done illegally after plays are finished, arguments between opposing players and between teammates, and angry shouting by parents and other fans; coaches shout directions and fans sometimes cheer loudly as it takes three teammates to tackle one of the largest members on the other team. Teammates help two teen boys off the field in different scenes, because of pain in a leg or ankle, which passes. Two other teen boys experience heat exhaustion while playing in 100-degree heat, lie on piles of ice cubes and recover. Sweat drips off a players fingers in close-up and the whole team grimaces, pants, and sweats in the locker room, but no one is seriously injured or ill. A player is shown with a slight bloody nose which he stops up with a length of cotton and he says he will not leave the game.
 Several scenes feature high school football games in which we see hard tackles, body slams, and players jumping over opponents to score touchdowns; additional scenes show a team training by slamming into kicking bags, charging into thicker bags on a metal framework, dragging large automobile tires behind them as they run, lifting weights, doing pushups and running and the players are shown to be sweaty in the hot sun. A training session show additional drills that include dragging huge tractor tires behind them as they run, slamming into a heavy bag held steady by a coach (one player falls, is OK, and gets up to try again), heavier weights are lifted, more complex footwork drills and all in hotter weather.
 Football players on one team argue with increasing loudness in a few scenes and push each other back and forth (one player is knocked down but is OK) before coaches break up the argument. A high school football player punches a locker door and a coach shouts, "We don't do that!" In another scene, two teen boys in a ghetto house argue, push each other, but end up hugging. In a team meeting, a player says that he was afraid when he first saw footage of an opposing team's huge players. A high school football player says he would die on the field for his team and another player says he hates his abusive father. High school coaches in a league conference meeting shout at each other, because one of the teams is "too good," and one team of coaches leaves the conference in anger. A husband and his wife argue mildly about his career options. A man argues with his teen son about football and his (the man's) dual role of father and coach. A teen boy's younger brother blows a trumpet in his ear and the teen chases the boy off screen.
 A high school football team visits a VA Medical Center where they raise their hands in response to a question as to whether they have ever been injured (we see no injuries); we see men and women from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars fitted with prosthetic arms and legs, while others exercise on machines, having only partial arms and legs (smooth stumps show at elbows and knees); one veteran in a wheelchair and wearing a sleeveless shirt has lost his arm at the shoulder and we see rows of large scars where stitches closed the opening; another veteran has no feeling in his legs and when a player helps with a sponge bath (please see the Sex/Nudity category for more details), the veteran shouts to scare the boy, then laughs, but says never to wish for lack of pain and feeling in the legs. A boy in the background of a TV news shot has a sling on his arm.
 We hear that a high school football player's grandfather has cancer and can no longer attend practices and games. We hear that a high school football player's aunt suffered poisoning by toxins at work, and had to quit and we see her unconscious in a hospital bed at home, with a nurse in attendance; the football player tells his coach that it is just a matter of time until she dies.
 A backyard grill catches fire and the male cook douses it with water, then tosses two charred meat patties under a bush.
 A high school football team's members are so large and heavy that when they run through a hallway to the field cups of drinks on a long table shake and a sound like a cattle stampede emanates in the hall.
 A teen boy walks to the toilet in his bathroom, stoops and gags into the toilet (we see no vomit) and the camera cuts to a close-up of the boy wiping his mouth on the back of his hand, but we again see no vomit. In a clinic hallway, a football player runs into a wheelchair patient, we see the patient's full urine bag burst all over the boy and the floor, and the boy shouts.


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LANGUAGE 2 - 3 mild obscenities, name-calling (crazy, punk, liar, Little Lad, Little Pop, stupid, lame, black, you little [muffled]), stereotypical references to men, women, teenagers, the poor, football parents, abusive fathers, sports coaches, high school football players, cheerleaders, salesmen, college sports recruiters. 7 religious exclamations (e.g. Oh My God, Oh God, Yo God, God, God Bless You, Maybe God Don't Care).


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SUBSTANCE USE - A teen boy asks a friend on the phone if the friend is high and receives no answer, and we hear that drug dealers in an urban area make a lot of money. A teen boy on the balcony where a party occurs holds a bottle in a brown paper bag (he does not drink from it) and a few teen boys and teen girls hold red cans (no labels show) that appear to be soda. A man lights and smokes a cigarette while sitting in his car, a man takes a pack of cigarettes and a disposable lighter from a drawer and places them on a bureau in his bedroom, and a teen boy says that he cannot believe that a man who is a sports coach had been smoking.


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DISCUSSION TOPICS - Winning and losing, faith, family, friendship, brotherhood, loyalty, values, growing up, Wounded Warriors, goals, dedication, hardship, abusiveness, death, loss, healing.

MESSAGE - Young people need to learn how to lose, grow from their losses, and move on to better lives; abuse is really ineffective.

CAVEATS

Be aware that while we do our best to avoid spoilers it is impossible to disguise all details and some may reveal crucial plot elements.

We've gone through several editorial changes since we started covering films in 1992 and older reviews are not as complete & accurate as recent ones; we plan to revisit and correct older reviews as resources and time permits.

Our ratings and reviews are based on the theatrically-released versions of films; on video there are often Unrated, Special, Director's Cut or Extended versions, (usually accurately labelled but sometimes mislabeled) released that contain additional content, which we did not review.


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