Release Date(s)1993 (September 9, 2008)
Studio(s)Columbia TriStar (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: B-
- Audio Grade: B-
- Extras Grade: C-
For whatever reason, there have only been a handful of great football movies. In fact, there have only been a handful of great sports movies, period. There’s Knute Rockne, All American and The Natural. And there’s Hoosiers, Rocky, and Bull Durham. But for every great movie, there’s many more awful ones. Why can’t Hollywood do better with sports films?
Well... they’re tough to do, for one thing. They’re emotionally pretty simple, so a lot of people tend to call them sappy or schmaltzy. And they’re predictable – there’s a formula to them that we all know and expect. How many of you would be disappointed in a sports movie if the characters didn’t win the big game? You expect the big game win – so how do you make the film interesting? It’s tough. But Rudy IS one of those great sports movies. The story is based on a real person and real events, the characters are interesting, the acting is good, and the plot isn’t as predictable as you might think.
Rudy follows the life of a young man named Rudy Ruettiger (played by Sean Astin), who grows up in a working class family in Joliet, Illinois in the 1970s. Rudy’s only dream in life is to play football for Notre Dame, but his family can’t afford the tuition and he’s a slow learner – his grades in high school wouldn’t even get him onto the campus of a community college. So when he graduates, he ends up working in the local steel mill just like his father (Ned Beatty) and older brothers. The only person who believes in Rudy’s dream is his friend Pete. But when Pete is killed in an accident at the mill, Rudy realizes that he’s wasting his life – if he wants his dream, he’s gonna have to go out and get it. So with little money and no place to stay, he gets on a bus for South Bend. There, he’s befriended by a Catholic priest, who gets him into nearby Holy Cross Junior College. The plan is that if he can make the grades, maybe he can transfer into Notre Dame and then try out for the team’s practice squad. In the meantime, Rudy is also befriended by a janitor (Charles Dutton) who gives him a job and a place to stay, and a fellow student (Jon Favreau), who helps him with his classwork. But just getting accepted to Notre Dame isn’t going to be Rudy’s only challenge. How do you win a spot on one of the country’s best football teams when you stand five foot nothing and weigh a hundred and nothing?
I think the real beauty of Rudy is that it isn’t just about football and it isn’t really about winning the big game. It’s about heart. It’s about chasing a dream. It’s about never giving in, even when people you love tell you that what you’re trying to do is foolish. Some might call that crazy, but not me. Funny thing is, all those things I just mentioned – heart, hard work, determination, perseverance – that’s not just what football is all about. That’s what LIFE is all about. No wonder it makes for a great film. Add to all that a really great supporting cast (which also includes Lili Taylor, Vince Vaughn and Robert Prosky) and another moving score by composer Jerry Goldsmith, and you’ve got a real winner.
On Sony’s new Blu-ray edition, the film looks and sounds quite good overall. There’s great color and contrast, and light to moderate film grain visible. The image looks a little mottled occasionally due to age issues, but there’s good detail at almost all times. The general result is a very film-like image. The transfer isn’t up to those for more recent films, but it’s satisfying nonetheless. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack is solid, if unremarkable and largely front-biased. Dialogue and atmosphere are clear and natural sounding, and the surrounds fill in nicely with music and crowd noise at just the right times.
Sony’s Blu-ray includes most of the extras that were on the previous DVD Deluxe Edition, except for the isolated score and the bonus CD soundtrack. So you still need to keep either the DVD or the CD or both if you want everything. Sadly, what you do get on the Blu-ray isn’t much. Basically, the extras amount to a trio of behind-the-scenes featurettes. One (First Down with Sean Astin) is nothing more than a 1 minute interview with the film’s lead. The second is a “making of” fluff piece of the kind that is typically put together by a studio’s EPK team to promote a film. It’s okay, but you’re not going to learn anything new (and it only runs 3 minutes). By far the best thing on this disc is a 13-minute look at the real Rudy Ruettiger, who talks about his life and his achievements compared to what we see in the film. There’s real emotion to be found here, and it’s a very moving and interesting piece.
On a quick side note, I actually had the pleasure of meeting the real Rudy a few years back, on a flight from Las Vegas to Orange County. Turns out, he’s just as nice in person as he is in real life. He was flattered that I’d recognized him, and we spoke for several minutes. When we were done, he asked for my business card, and a couple weeks later, he sent me a signed copy of his book. Talk about a decent human being, he’s one.
Anyway, Rudy is a just great film and it really looks and sounds good on Blu-ray. There’s not much substance to this disc beyond the film, but it’s worth having if you’re a fan and you can get a good discounted price. This is an inspiring true story, and it’s a rare film you can enjoy with the whole family. If the ending doesn’t move you, you probably can’t be moved. So hang up your cynicism and your fear of the “heartwarming story” and give this disc a spin. I think you’ll be very glad you did.
- Bill Hunt