(L-R) Michael Chiklis, Jim Caviezel, Alexander Ludwig and Jessie Usher in WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL

(L-R) Michael Chiklis, Jim Caviezel, Alexander Ludwig and Jessie Usher in WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL

When the Game Stands Tall” is the adrenalin driven, gripping cinema feast that defies anyone pigeonholing it as a sports film.

The story, fine acting, on the field action, and motivating moments are nothing less than all around exceptional, exciting entertainment.

“When the Game Stands Tall” is based on the true story of coach Bob Ladoucer (Lad), who took the De La Salle High School Spartans from obscurity to a 151-game winning streak and shattered records.

It is no secret that the life lessons Lad imparts, his untiring stressing of self-efficacy and self-esteem are important to his wins. “Don’t let a game define you,” Lad admonishes in the movie. That powerful credo could help all students who allow bullies and social media to define them take back their lives.

Jim Caviezel stars as Bob Ladoucer in the Thomas Carter directed drama reveling in the exploits of a tight-knit band of brothers and their extraordinary, legendary coach. Caviezel admitted that it could be a challenge when playing a man who is still alive and on the job, because there may be comparisons. “At the same time,” he admitted, “you can’t fall into the trap of imitating…that’s not acting.”

He gives kudos to Carter for bringing his character to life. “When you read a book and it’s a thousand pages, you can’t have every character in a 110 minute film,” he says. “You have to condense it. I think Thomas Carter certainly captured the spirit. This is not your typical sports film. It’s not that guy shooting the ball at the end, they win, the music rises and they go off champions. This is not that film. It’s a special kind of film because the winning streak gets dealt with at the first third of movie.”

Shooting a ball is something Caviezel knows a bit about. His basketball career was cut short because of an injury and acting took center stage. Best known for “The Passion of the Christ,” the award-winning actor has quite a track record. His big break came with “A Thin Red Line” that also starred Sean Penn. Among his others films and co-stars are “Déjà Vu” (Denzel Washington, Paula Patton), “Frequency” (Andre Braugher), “Angel Eyes” (Jennifer Lopez), “Savannah” (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and the TV series “Children of the Dust” (Sidney Poitier), and “Person of Interest” (Taraji P. Henson).

Ironically, Henson’s name in “POI” is Carter. At the New York Comic Con last year, Henson and Caviezel were asked if their characters would become an item. Henson said “no,” which was a relief because all too often that scenario causes the demise of one of the players. So when Caviezel (Reese) planted a kiss on Henson (Carter) and professed his love, “POI” viewers knew the end was near for Henson.

Michael Chiklis (“American Horror Story,” “The Shield,” “Las Vegas”), love interest in “Fantastic Four” is Kerry Washington. But the love of the game for Chilis’ character Terry Eidson in “When the Game Stands Tall,” also includes a dose of affirmation. “A big reason for me wanting to do this film wasn’t so much about the streak and the glory, but it being more about overcoming adversity,” Chicklis says. “This is the kind of movie that can make your heart swell, make you feel hopeful and excited about the human condition.”

Director Thomas Carter at a special screening of WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL

Director Thomas Carter at a special screening of WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL for the Boys and Girls Clubs in Tempe, Arizona

Director Carter also related how the film embraces the opportunity to take viewers on a promising journey.  “One of the themes of the film is that there is more to life than football,” he offered. “Sometimes when you’re in high school, college or even the Pros, it’s sort of easy to forget that with all the glory that may be attached, certainly attached to a team that had a winning streak of 151 games. What happens when that streak is challenged? That’s what we wanted to ask in this movie. In addition, I wanted to do a movie about a guy who is an inspiration to those players. Coach Bob Ladouceur is an amazing coach, obviously for the ages, who is interested in building young men of character.”

Ladouceur’s staff could never have achieved their record of achievement, Carter believes, if winning games was the team’s chief goal. “They were taught principles of manhood, of brotherhood, of fraternity, personal accountability, selflessness and loyalty to the people that you play with,” Carter commented. “Those are the qualities that you take not just to the football field but into life, into your family, into your community and that’s the difference.”

The way the scrimmages were shot was phenomenal and engaged the audience with every play. “I loved shooting the football sequences and wanted to put the audience right inside the game,” Carter explained. “I didn’t want to make a movie where you just felt like you were sitting outside watching, but make you feel you were really inside with the players. So we did things like using a motorcycle cam to shoot a lot of the sequences, putting the camera up close and really giving the audience a feeling that they were in the game. That they were feeling the hits just like the players.”

“When the Game Stands Tall” opens August 22nd. It also stars Alexander Ludwig, Clancy Brown, Laura Dern, Ser’Darius Bain, Stephen James, Jessie Usher, LaJessie Smith, with appearances by Jesse Moore, Adella Gautier, Terence Rosemore, Deneen Tyler, Sam Malone, Renell Gibbs, Deric Augustine, Robert Diago DuQui, Craig Tate, Donna Duplantier, Rex Baker, Kenneth Kynt Bryan, Crystal Hamlin, Sadarias Harrel, Starlette Miariaunii, Jaren Mitchell, Jarett Shorts, Justin Christopher Vaughn, and Kristofer Gordon, as the Black heart specialist. For information on group sales: 877-488-4258 or [email protected]

Syndicated Entertainment journalist Marie Moore reports on film and TV from her New York City base. Contact her at [email protected]