Many sports movies are formulaic and predictable, meant to be shots of adrenaline for rousing moviegoers, bringing them to their feet, and sending them out of the theater inspired and uplifted. Occasionally, a sports movie rises above the formula, engaging the intellect with superb characterization, acting, and story—a la Raging Bull, Field of Dreams, and Hoosiers. But often, if the on-field action is gritty and exciting enough, all it takes is a few motivational speeches and an against-the-odds underdog story, and you've pretty much got a winner.
Well, usually, anyway. Facing the Giants, the latest inspirational football story to hit the big screen, tests the limits of this theory. When the players are on the field and the football is in the air, it's a surefire audience pleaser; when the action cools down and we're left with just the characters and the story, the fumbles start adding up awfully fast.
A variation on the standard football movie plot, Facing the Giants takes place in a southern Christian high school, where coach Grant Taylor (Alex Kendrick, who also wrote and directed the film) is struggling to keep the school's football program alive. The team isn't winning, the players are apathetic, and some of the parents are trying to have Grant replaced. When we first see him go home to his wife, Brooke (Shannen Fields), we learn that Grant's also having problems off the field; in fact, the film begins stacking the odds so high against Grant that it flirts with outright melodrama—his car won't start, his home is in a state of disrepair, he and Brooke can't conceive, money is running out, and most folks just plain don't like him.
Then, just when things seem like they can't get any worse, a stranger shows up in ...