By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty, Charles S. Dutton, Lili Taylor, and Vince Vaughn
Some people gravitate toward Miracle as being their number one favorite sports movie. Others are more fond of Major League. Me, I am more of a Bad News Bears kind of guy. However, there is one thing about these movies that are more in common with each other, and in turn, separate themselves from Rudy. Yes, they are all great films. But, they all are about teams going towards one goal. Rudy really resonated with me because it was about one boy’s dream. One boy’s drive to make his dad proud. One dream: to play football for the University of Notre Dame. The film starred Sean Astin, who was in an interesting point in his career at this time. He was pre Sam in Lord of the Rings, and post Mikey from Goonies. He was on the cusp of growing up and being a man. However, there was not a shot that he would make it as an adult actor now, would he? All one has to do is look at the future fate of his Goonies castmate Corey Feldman to know that. However, there is one difference between those two that gets overlooked. If given this challenge, Feldman would not be able to match it. Astin has just the likability and willingness for one to root for him that he pulls this role off. And does it beautifully.
The real Daniel Ruettiger (Rudy’s real name) makes it clear that he would not have lived his dream if it had not been for a supporting cast around him. And, the same can be told from the narrative success of the movie. Favreau, who was only two years away from starting his directing career that would eventually land him in the director’s chair of Iron Man, stars as his friend D-Bob. A guy who, of course, tells him to keep following his dream. But, also helps him be a teenager, meeting girls and such. Ned Beatty is real good as his father who never missed a Notre Dame game on TV, and is reluctant to let his son go. However, the real good turn is by Charles S. Dutton, who at the time was known mainly for his sitcom Roc and Alien 3 (come to think of it, he’s still known for those things). His very subtle facial expressions while Rudy does things like run the field pretending to run back a kickoff and reenact coach’s speeches in the maintenance room, have just the right amount of shown resentment yet admiration for the boy and his dream. His little steps in helping him accomplish this makes you feel good, and Dutton’s performance is a revelation. And of course, there’s Vaughn in his film debut as a complete jerk of a teammate. He would meet Favreau on this set and their partnership would live in independent film infamy.
Much like the most well known scores to films, the movie would undoubtedly dropped a few notches in quality had it not been for the flawless score done by Jerry Goldsmith. After having worked with this same writing/directing team for their 1986 film Hoosiers, he grinds out what is probably the most memorable score of his career here, which has appeared in over a dozen subsequent trailers. Sure, the film definitely has its flaws. Some bits, like D-Bob’s sorry attempts of asking a girl out and the much talked about is it real, is it not jersey folding scene fall a little flat. And, the ending does not get much more cheesy in the realms of film. However, as full of cheese that last 20 minutes is, it is no doubt inspiring. Not since Rocky have I stood up and clapped for a character after being engrossed in his story for over an hour. So, they made it a rousing cheese fest. But, if it inspires someone to fulfill a dream that they were told their whole lives they couldn’t do, then it has to be considered a success, doesn’t it?
4 out of 5