Directed by David Anspaugh
Written by Angelo Pizzo
"Rudy" tells the true story of a young man who dreamed to play for Notre Dame and dared to do all he could to make that a reality. With a strong lead performance by Sean Astin and a usually unwavering focus on the theme of chasing one's dreams, this is a well-made and inspirational film.
When I was younger I wanted to be in the NBA. One of my favorite pastimes was to wear my Kobe Bryant jersey (back when he was number 8) and play on our hoop out in our driveway. It had a crank so that I could lower the rim's height to a dunk-able standard or put it up to ten feet where it belongs and wonder about the day when I'd be able to dunk that... That desire was a rather fleeting one, not like writing and filmmaking. I suppose that is how you know where your calling is, the one(s) that does not change.
These days I don't care much for sports at all. Basketball if anything. Football? That's lower on my hierarchy. It is a good thing that "Rudy" is not really a football film and that is probably why I liked it as much as I did. The story is applicable to whatever your aspirations in life are, it just so happens that Rudy's were football.
Unlike me, Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger's dream for a future in sports had longevity. What's more? Growing up in Illinois he especially wanted to play for Notre Dame, the school team that his family would always huddle around the television to root for. As a boy he is small for his age, but spirited. He has memorized an inspiring locker room speech from the college's coach. We will get to hear him recite it again when he is older. He graduates from high school (from which point on he is played with vigor by Sean Astin) where he was able to play ball. He is still small yet still spirited, but has neither the grades or money for the likes of Notre Dame. He is told by a teacher and later his own father that these dreams of his are beyond his reach He goes to work at the local steel mill alongside his father (played by Ned Beatty) and older brothers. However, he does not give up his dream. Instead, he works hard and saves his money for when he'll move to that holy university town. Sean Astin's performance is the heart of this picture. He has the young and determined look necessary of a character like Rudy.
"Rudy" is not without plentiful montages, though perhaps it was one of the trendsetters in this area and not merely just another formulaic "inspirational sports film based on a true story." What is most refreshing is that we don't even spend much of the movie watching the team play their games. In fact, it is not until the end that we actually first see a real game and it doesn't last long. It is the journey, not the destination, that matters most herein. And unlike other sports films, our protagonist's journey takes place mostly off the field. The story seems to pull into some driveways on its way down the street. There is a portion that feels almost like a romantic comedy as Rudy tries to get girls for a guy dubbed D-Bob (played by Jon Favreau) in exchange for his tutelage, though we have no idea how Rudy himself is any pro in this field either. Rudy has a relationship with a girl back in his hometown, but that is given very little screen time. To be most effective I would think there should be more or none at all.
The Jerry Goldsmith score is one for any cinephile's playlist. (The film's theme is such a stirring number that it has been used in a dozen movie trailers.) It proves that some emotions and feelings are perhaps best defined by music. Here they seem to define hope. It is the glimmer of light at the tunnel's end, no matter how faint, that seems to beckon the willing to do all they can to draw near, and that is precisely what Rudy does. When words fall short, the power of music remains. Perhaps my favorite scene is when Rudy opens his acceptance letter while sitting on a bench on campus grounds. Cinematographer Oliver Wood shoots the scene in a single take that moves from seeing Rudy from the front and then moves to behind him. The aforementioned orchestrated piece sets and hikes the mood.
Other shots that Wood deserves applauding for include a staggering crane shot in which we see Rudy outside the Notre Dame stadium unable to get a ticket to see the game. The angle elevates until we see over the wall into the packed stands on the other side. Rudy is seen outside, alone and unable to get it. It is an image that sums up much of the film. Another shot I admired is a long take that follows Rudy as an errand boy through the locker room having just delivered one of the iconic golden helmets.
"Rudy" is a film about a young man who chases his dream. He doesn't become a star... or does he? Look at the legacy he has left nearly 40 years ago. At the end of the day (and the end of the film) he is someone who did nearly everything he could to realize his dream.
CONTENT: language, an accident scene, and some violence on the football field