Rudy

1993, Movie, PG, 112 mins

Review

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RUDY tells the emotional, fact-based story of Daniel E. "Rudy" Ruettiger, a common man with high hopes--to play football at Notre Dame. Despite a small build, bad grades, and no money, Rudy sets out on an exhaustive, determined effort to achieve the seemingly impossible.

An indifferent student, Rudy (Sean Astin) is ridiculed by family and friends when he states his intention to join the team at Notre Dame University. When his parochial high school sponsors a field trip to the University, Rudy shows up, but is not allowed on the bus. "College is not for everyone," a priest admonishes him.

Four years pass. Rudy goes to work in a steel mill with his father, brothers, and his friend Pete (Christopher Reed). Although Rudy clings to his dream, only Pete supports him. When Pete is killed in a mill accident, Rudy, devastated, leaves for Notre Dame.

Rudy enrolls in nearby Holy Cross Junior College to prepare for university. Despite greatly improved grades, he is repeatedly denied admission to Notre Dame. On trips home, his father, convinced Rudy is wasting his time, barely speaks to him. Finally, in his junior year, Rudy is accepted. He makes the football prep team--because of enthusiasm rather than skill--and becomes essentially a human practice dummy for the starting team. Bruised and bloodied, Rudy neverthless gives his all at every scrimmage. Although other players are at first annoyed with him, Rudy's spirit eventually becomes an inspiration to them.

At the season's end, Coach Ara Parseghian (Jason Miller) promises Rudy that he will be permitted to join the team on the sidelines for one game next year. Rudy is thrilled, but Parseghian quits in the off-season. Under a new coach, Rudy's second and final season is much the same--he never makes the cut, but continues to win the respect and affection of the starting squad. With one game remaining, the starting players line up at the coach's office, lay their jerseys on his desk, and offer to let Rudy take their place on the field. Impressed, the coach relents.

With his family and friends watching, Rudy leads the Irish through the tunnel and onto the field. He is allowed into the game with seven seconds remaining in the fourth quarter (Notre Dame has a comfortable lead). On the final play of the season, Rudy sacks the opposing quarterback. He is hoisted onto the team's shoulders and carried from the field, becoming the last Notre Dame player ever to receive such an honor.

RUDY shares a director (David Anspaugh) and a screenwriter (Angelo Pizzo) with HOOSIERS (1986), an equally emotional basketball film. Pizzo and Anspaugh clearly understand the inherent drama of athletics: the story of Rudy Ruettiger is inspirational, and the ending brings a lump to the throat just as surely as did the earlier film. But whereas HOOSIERS' sentimentality was balanced by some terrific, suspenseful sports action, there is scant opportunity for that here. Rudy never even plays until the last minutes of the film, and the outcome of the game is never in doubt. Though undeniably moving, much of RUDY seems awash in calculated pathos. The music swells as often as the bruises on Rudy's face. Sean Astin plays Rudy convincingly, but his performance alone is not enough to carry the film. Other fine actors (Ned Beatty, Charles Dutton, Lili Taylor, Robert Prosky) are not given much to work with. Supporting characters seem thin and ill-defined.

Moreover, the rationale behind Rudy's dream is something of a mystery. Why is he so driven? Without understanding his motives, it becomes easy to lose patience with a character so obsessively devoted to a single, largely meaningless goal. Ultimately, RUDY is an inconsequential, if moving, contribution to the sports-movie genre. (Violence, profanity.) leave a comment

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