Directed by David
Directed by Marco
Sometimes a winner is a dreamer who just won't quit." If you read the tag on the poster, you will already know what this movie is about: cheese. The artificial, creamy, Velveeta kind. "Rudy" is based on the true story of Rudy Ruettiger, a young Catholic boy who pursues his life long dream of playing football for the Notre Dame Irish. Only three things stand in his way: He doesn't have the high school grades to get into Notre Dame, he doesn't have any money to pay for the tuition and he is only five-foot seven inches tall, hardly the size necessary to join the nearly professional Notre Dame team.
Director David Anspaugh and writer Angelo Pizzo also teamed up to create the classic underdog-athletes-who-(surprise)-come-back-to-win movie "Hoosiers." Their strategy with "Rudy" is just as simple--throw in anything that could possibly make us root for Rudy's cause. Everything that could possibly go wrong for Rudy does. His best friend dies, neither his father nor his brother believe that he can achieve his dream, his long-time girl friend dumps him for his other brother and Notre Dame rejects his application three times before it accepts him. Even after Rudy makes the team, the heart-rending difficulties don't end--his coach promises to let him dress for a game, but then quits before Rudy gets a chance to play.
Virtual unknown Sean Astin gives a persuasive performance as the scrappy young man who succeeds only because of his intense desire and determination. Stilted and cliched dialogue makes his task especially difficult. An example of the pathetic genericism of most of the script is the most emotional line he utters during the movie, in which he tells his girlfriend that he has to pursue his dream: "If I don't go now, I won't be any good to you, or to me, or to anybody." Sniff.
Astin's supporting cast performs decently, but unfortunately the script limits their roles as well. Ned Beatty portrays Rudy's blue-collar Irish father convincingly, but he appears only early in the movie. Charles S. Dutton, as the groundskeeper of the Notre Dame stadium, replaces Beatty in the role of Rudy's mentor. Dutton, who tends to over-act (as anyone who has seen him as "Roc" on TV knows), somewhat overdoes his part of the wise old man who has to give sage and timely advice in order to motivate young Rudy.
However, the movie's appeal does not lie in its weak plot, its predictable dialogue or the performances of the actors. It's the endless travails of its beleaguered hero. The endless scenes of Rudy being tackled, Rudy being told he's too poor/stupid/short to go to Notre Dame, Rudy being tackled by two guys who are both twice his size, Rudy acting frustrated, Rudy getting tackled again, make it virtually impossible to resist rooting for the likeable little guy.
Anspaugh and Pizzo aim low, seeking to sucker the part in all of us that wants the underdog to overcome great odds to win--and they succeed. By the end of the movie, when Rudy's teammates carry him off the field, there were cheers of approval from the audience, and more than a few people around me were sniffling back tears.
Yet after the glow of triumph fades, you are left with a certain hollow feeling. Rudy Ruettiger's determination and heart are admirable--and his obsession some what frightening--but you can't help feeling, "Why wasn't his life-long dream a cure for cancer?" So if you want serious art and debate over social issues, go see something at the Brattle. But if you're in the mood for some Easy Cheese that will go down smoothly, go cheer for "Rudy."
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