Fortune tells Rudy, “You’re 5 foot nothin’, 100 and nothin’, and you have barely a speck of athletic ability. And you hung in there with the best college football players in the land for two years. And you’re gonna walk outta here with a degree from the University of Notre Dame. In this life, you don’t have to prove nothin’ to nobody but yourself. And after what you’ve gone through, if you haven’t done that by now, it ain’t gonna never happen. Now go on back.”
Today the NFL’s 2012-2013 football season officially ends with Super Bowl 47. I recently listed what I believed to be the top 20 football movies of all time here. As a companion piece, I’ve decided to review my favorite football movie. It is a movie that is very inspirational, engaging, and based on a true story. If you haven’t figured it out by now (the above poster and the blog post title should’ve been dead giveaways), I’m referring to 1993’s Rudy. I didn’t get to see it when it opened back then (yes, this year marks the 20th anniversary of Rudy), but I have seen it a few times on cable and on DVD (this will be the first review I write for a movie that I have not yet seen on the big screen).
David Anspaugh, the director of 1986’s Hoosiers, re-teamed with Hoosiers writer/producer Angelo Pizzo to bring the story of Daniel E. “Rudy” Reuttiger to the big screen. To sum up as briefly as I can, Reuttiger attended Joliet Catholic High School, where he played for locally famous coach Gordie Gillespie, but he struggled with his grades. He joined the U.S. Navy after high school, serving as a yeoman on a communications command ship for two years (this isn’t mentioned in the film probably due to pacing issues, however, the duffle bag that Rudy brings with him to Notre Dame is the only reference to his Navy service). After his stint in the Navy, Rudy worked in a power plant for two years. He applied to Notre Dame, but due to his low grades he had to attend the nearby Holy Cross College. After two years at Holy Cross, he was accepted as a student at Notre Dame in the fall of 1974. It was during his time at Holy Cross that he discovered he had dyslexia. Ruettiger had dreamed of playing for the Notre Dame football team despite being an undersized player. After working as hard as possible and showing that he was willing to work as much as he needed to, Ruettiger earned a place on the Notre Dame scout team, a practice squad that helps the varsity team practice for games. After Coach Ara Parseghian stepped down after the 1974 season, Dan Devine was named head coach. In Ruettiger’s last opportunity to play for Notre Dame at home, Devine put him into a game as defensive end against Georgia Tech on November 8, 1975 (the movie has Devine not wanting Rudy to dress for the final game, when in fact, it was Devine’s idea to have Rudy dress for the game). I don’t feel I should go any further on his life since I don’t want to spoil anymore of the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it.
The film itself is just wonderful. Sean Astin shines as Rudy; it was a role he was born to play (it’ll be the role he’s most known for besides Samwise Gamgee from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy). In fact, it’s interesting to look back to see who’s in the cast. Ned Beatty, Charles S. Dutton, Robert Prosky, Jon Favreau, Lili Taylor, Vince Vaughn, and Chelcie Ross are all in the film, and they all turn in terrific performances (even the smaller roles). Also, composer Jerry Goldsmith, who received a Best Original Score Oscar nod for Hoosiers, was called upon once more by Anspaugh and Pizzo. Goldsmith wrote another classic score, one that contains a memorable theme for Rudy as well as one that captures the drama and the drive to achieve his dream. Just take a listen to this piece:
I think what I take away the most from the film is the notion of never giving up on your dream even if it gets delayed for a number of years (this is something that strongly resonates with me and will continue to do so until I am able to properly resume my pursuit). I strongly admire Rudy’s tenacity and strong will to keep his dream of playing football for Notre Dame alive even when his family thought he was being a fool. He stuck in there against all odds; he ran the gauntlet and won (so to speak). Rudy’s story continues to give me hope for the future, not just for myself but for all people.