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All his life, people have told Rudy he's not good enough, not smart enough, not big enough. But nothing can stop his impossible dream of playing football for Notre Dame. From the time he was a young boy, Rudy is determined to join the Fighting Irish. But his blue-collar family only laughs at his ambitions - they know Rudy will follow his father and brother to the local steel mill. And, for four long years after high school, he does just that. But some dreams won't die, as Rudy proves when he goes to heroic, occasionally hilarious, lengths to win admission to Notre Dame. Once there, he becomes a walk-on player, serving as little more than a human tackling dummy against the startling players. Bloodied but unbeaten, Rudy wins the respect of legendary coach Ara Parseghian and the other Irish players, who give him one shot at gridiron glory. Based on a true story.
For more about Rudy and the Rudy Blu-ray release, see Rudy Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on September 8, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Sean Astin, Ned Beatty, Charles S. Dutton, Lili Taylor, Jason Miller, Robert Prosky
Director: David Anspaugh
» See full cast & crew
Rudy Blu-ray Review
Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, September 8, 2008
The problem with dreamers is they usually are not doers.
The release of Rudy on Blu-ray has been impeccably timed to coincide with the start of football season. Fans of the old pigskin are fired up. Two weeks worth of college ball are in the books, and the NFL celebrated its opening weekend just two days before this disc's release. With the excitement of the season still fresh and a few games, beers, and nachos under their belts, fans who venture into Target or Best Buy (or better yet, click through our Amazon.com links) on their Tuesday lunch breaks will find Rudy newly placed on store shelves, ready to tackle football fan's pocketbooks who cannot get enough gridiron action. Regardless of when it is released, however, many football and movie fans are familiar with Rudy, perhaps the best football film ever made and one of the finest examples of inspirational cinema ever committed to celluloid. No doubt, Hollywood has often turned to football for its inspirational tales, and several of the best are now on Blu-ray, including Invincible, Remember the Titans, and We Are Marshall. What makes them all so great is that they are real, based on actual events, and truly worthy of the inspirational monicker.
Chasing your stupid dream causes nothing but you and everyone around you heartache.
Rudy Ruettiger (Sean Astin, 50 First Dates) dreams of one day playing football for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. From a young age, he's told he'll never amount to anything more than another employee in the steel mill run by his father Daniel (Ned Beatty, Deliverance). When his best friend Pete, the only person who believed in his dreams, perishes in an accident at the mill, Rudy says his goodbyes and leaves for South Bend, Indiana with nothing but $1,000 for tuition and a duffel bag full of what little he owns. He's denied entrance to Notre Dame, but is granted admittance at her sister school, Holy Cross, with the promise of a re-evaluation later on should he earn good grades. Rudy works as tirelessly with the books as he does on the field, and with every passing grade, every drop of sweat, and every ounce of sheer determination inside his body, he inches closer to his dream of attending Notre Dame and participating in coach Ara Parseghian's (Jason Miller, The Exorcist) open tryouts for a place on the legendary football squad.
Having dreams is what makes life tolerable.
Rudy is a film in the same mold as 2002's The Rookie, the baseball-centric film starring Dennis Quaid as an aged (in baseball years) science teacher who finally gets his shot to live his dream and pitch in the Major Leagues after his hope is renewed through the encouragement of those around him. Rudy, likewise, is the a story of a dreamer, a young, energetic, never-say-die go-getter who faces the world head-on. Unlike Jim Morris, the hero portrayed by Quaid in The Rookie, Rudy's sole source of encouragement comes from within, and his only supporter outside of himself perishes early in the film, cementing his desire to prove the world wrong. It is perhaps this unflinching attitude that so easily wins over the hearts of audiences everywhere. He's never taught to embrace his dream. From his formative years and onward, he's been told his dreams are meaningless, that he will never amount to anything outside the sleepy steel town he lives in, and to accept his lot in life and live it as best he can. His father is the primary source of this negativity, himself a devoted Notre Dame fan who goes so far as to proclaim no other football team's games will be televised in his home. For all his love for the team, he's never ventured to South Bend to experience the excitement first-hand. He's bestowed upon his son an undying love for Notre Dame, but failed to cement the notion that the dream to play for the team is for others, not for Rudy or anyone in his family. Perhaps the finest moment in the film comes when Rudy's father finally travels to Notre Dame Stadium for the first time to see his son play and proclaims the field to be the finest thing he's ever laid eyes on, instantly erasing the lifelong acceptance of mediocrity and failure to strive for something better. The startling contrast of Irish football on a small black-and-white television in the Ruettiger household with the vast, wondrous sea of green that is the field, is, in a nutshell, the theme of the movie, the television representing the old way of accepting a dull, tedious, trapped life and the field showcasing the power of motivation, hard work, endurance, and ambition.
My whole life people have been telling me what I could do and couldn't do. I've always listened to 'em, believed in what they said. I don't want to do that anymore.
As if the true story is not powerful enough, actor Sean Astin delivers an absolutely first-rate performance as the diminutive-in-stature but big-in-heart Rudy Ruettiger. The boundless enthusiasm he brings to the character never fails to bring a smile to your face and a flood of tears to your eye as he succeeds in showing how powerful a tool perseverance in the face of endless negativity truly is. Sean Astin plays it so well, in fact, that the sorrow in his eyes when he is time and again denied his dream, be it from his father or a rejection letter, never looks forced or acted. He captures the spirit of the character with an uncanny realism that in turn captures the audience's heart and emotionally involves us in the story like few other actors and characters that I can recall. In conjunction with the fine score by the late and legendary Jerry Goldsmith (First Blood), the film creates a myriad of emotions in the viewer from beginning to end, from heartbreak to triumph, right alongside Rudy. The score is impeccable in its representation of the film. It doesn't stir the emotions (the movie does that well enough), but it reinforces them in both the movie and in the audience.
Rudy Blu-ray, Video Quality
Rudy lines up on Blu-ray with a 1080p, 1.85:1-framed transfer. The results are acceptable, but won't create a sense of wonder among audiences, either. At the film's open during a snowy backyard pickup game between friends, the film is drab in its color palette but offers a very nice cinematic look. There is some grain over the image here and throughout, coming across as rather heavy at times, and the occasional speckle over the print is to be found as well. Still, there is practically no pop or depth to the image. Colors are lacking and not as vibrant as I expected, but some shots do truly shine, particularly bright, outdoor shots of the Notre Dame or Holy Cross campuses that feature plenty of glorious fall foliage in select scenes. There is a noticeable change in the look of the film during the second act when Rudy's dream is within his grasp. Colors become more lively; the dark, almost depressing general look of the film's first act transforms into a brighter and more vibrant one, certainly more cheerful and hopeful, representing the renewed faith on Rudy's part and a new vigor and energy in his life. For football fans, Notre Dame blue jerseys and golden helmets never looked better. As for problematic areas, there are but two that I noted. There is a hint of banding in a few shots, and black levels are moderately good at best. Rudy will not walk away with "transfer of the year," but the source material being what it is, there is little room to complain.
Rudy Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Rudy enrolls on Blu-ray with a lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack that, like the video, is never flashy or fancy but gets the job done nicely nevertheless. After an excellent effect at the very beginning of the film as the sound of a collegiate band moves from rear to front and becomes progressively louder as it marches forward, the film jumps straight to a smoky, quiet, early morning Illinois steel town where we meet our characters. The scene is representative of the majority of the movie from an audio standpoint, with strong dialogue reproduction, minor ambience, and, eventually, the presence of the film's score playing nicely across the front soundstage. Although dialogue is the backbone of the film, and it sounds great, there is a wealth of wonderful experiences throughout the mix. A tragedy in chapter three that kills Rudy's friend Pete offers up a powerful, all-encompassing explosion with solid lows and an engaging surround presence. The soundstage later comes alive with some subtle and not-so-subtle ambience. Words echo in a nearly empty church in one scene, for example, and the crowd noise at the football games places us in the middle of Notre Dame Stadium later. The sounds of football are here, but are nowhere near as powerful as what we heard (and felt) in Gridiron Gang, for example. Bass never comes into play all that much in this track, especially compared to Gridiron Gang and other football films of more recent vintage, but this track holds its own and offers listeners an experience that is the perfect compliment to the look, tone, and emotional power of the film.
Rudy Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Most unfortunate is the fact that this Blu-ray edition of Rudy does not contain any more supplements than it does. Three featurettes and a trailer are all that's available. Rudy: The Real Story (480p, 12:53) is a short but interesting piece that features interview clips with the real Rudy Ruettiger and a biography of this inspirational character. Production Featurette (480p, 3:10) is a most basic promotional piece that features interview snippets with the cast and crew, intertwined with footage from the film. First Down With Sean Astin (480p, 1:05) features the film's star discussing the character he portrays. Also included is a 1080p trailer for Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Finally, this disc is BD-Live (Blu-ray profile 2.0) enabled. Accessing this feature takes users to Sony's standard page that includes trailers, a FAQ, an optional survey, and more.
Rudy Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
If you go back and read the reviews of the other Inspirational sports films linked throughout this review, it should come as no surprise that I loved Rudy. At the end of the day, for all the enjoyment I receive from shoot-em-up action movies, war flicks, and Science Fiction, the sport film, and the Inspirational sport film particularly, just might be my favorite genre. Call the movies sappy, call me mushy, but all of them get to me like nothing else, and they serve a greater purpose than simple entertainment. They bring with them messages of hope in times of peril, of determination in the face of those would tell you no, and of the power of positive thinking. Rudy may be the greatest of them all, because his journey is perhaps the toughest and most heartfelt of them all. Sean Astin's performance is nothing short of spectacular, not in an Oscar-worthy sense, but in an emotionally satisfying sense. Not only does he look the part as a smaller-in-stature actor, but he exudes all the qualities we need in a hero, and Rudy Ruettiger is a hero for the ages. He is a hero to anyone who needs a lift, a word of encouragement, a pat on the back, or a reassuring smile that if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything you so choose. Sony's presentation of Rudy on Blu-ray is probably about as good as we'll ever see the film. It'll never be high definition reference material, but the source does benefit from the 1080p treatment visually, as does the lossless soundtrack in the audio department. The supplements are disappointing to say the least, but the strength of the movie alone makes this one worth owning. Rudy is definitely recommended.
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