Possibly due to the special place that athletic events hold in American culture and in the bond between parents and children, many filmmakers endeavor to create or chronicle the story of extraordinary athletes or teams, who rise from underdog mediocrity to athletic immortality. Films such as "Rocky," "Hoosiers," and "The Natural" have done this beautifully, and have set a standard that few sports films have been able to achieve. Although the achievements chronicled in "Rudy" seem at first glance to be a far cry from those in the aforementioned films, "Rudy" measures up extremely well with these films.
"Rudy" tells the somewhat improbable story of Dan "Rudy" Rutteger, a football player from a small high school in Joliet, Illinois who sets off to South Bend, Indiana with dreams of making the University of Notre Dame Football team despite seemingly insurmountable physical limitations (5 feet 6 inches tall, approximately 160 pounds)and without having obtained admission to the University. This is however, a film that can be greatly appreciated by football fans and non-football fans alike, and by both the Notre Dame faithful and those who hate Notre Dame football, although one Notre Dame hater does object to the "shameless glorification of Notre Dame." The film is really about one's dreams, desire and determination. Sean Astin does a great job making Rudy believable and making anyone watching the film want to root for him.
The film is driven by a few extremely enjoyable performances, particularly those of Astin, Charles S. Dutton, who plays a groundskeeper that befriends and assists Rudy, Robert Prosky as a priest who also attempts to keep Rudy on the right path and Jon Favreau, who later attained fame in "Swingers," as D-Bob, a friend and tutor to Rudy who helps Rudy with his studies as Rudy helps him become more social. Just as these characters helped make Rudy's improbable journey possible, these performances help drive the film. Also, as Favreau is a bit difficult to recognize at first (he has subsequently lost a great deal of weight), also in the film but a bit difficult to recognize at first is Favreau's "Swingers" co-hort Vince (here listed as "Vincent") Vaughn.
In addition, this film is also driven by great dialogue, subtly inspirational music and some tremendous visuals, most notably, the first scene at Notre Dame's practice. There is a real sense of majesty with both the story of the film and the film itself, and, in all aspects, this is a film that works.
The film, made by the collaborative force behind "Hoosiers" is truly a fantastic and inspirational one, and is the kind of film that one will likely watch numerous times. It is both a great football film and a great "triumph of the heart" type film. It tells a story that is less likely to be otherwise passed down from generation to generation of sports fans than those of sports greats such as Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Lou Gehrig, Wilt Chamberlain, and Walter Payton, but is every bit as remarkable a story and is especially enjoyable for those who never were at the top of their game.
Whle some who are not interested in football may initially be turned away by the film's subject matter missing this great film would be a mistake. It is that good. After having reviewed so many films with the caveat that "this film is not for everyone," this is a film that truly is for everyone.
"Rudy" is presented in anamorphic widescreen format with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. While there are occasionally a few scratches or imperfections in the print, the film is visually impressive and the transfer generally looks good. While not using any visual effects, this is a highly stylistic film and it has transferred well onto DVD.
"Rudy" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. The sound is fairly clear throughout the film, with the film's dialogue, music and football sounds coming through clearly throughout the film. The sound is generally good and there are few reasons to adjust the volume for any reason. While not always using the surround sound features, the scenes featuring the Notre Dame alma mater sound great.
Sadly, after waiting a long time for this film to be released on DVD, I expected more bonus materials than are actually on the DVD. The DVD features bonus trailers for "Jerry Maguire" and "Brian's Song." In addition, the film features three extremely short featurettes: a short interview with the real "Rudy" about the actual story emulated by the movie; a short interview with Sean Astin about the making of the film; and a short featurette on the making of the film. While Rutteger's interview seems to corroborate the basic facts of Rudy's story, suggesting that those portrayed in the film as having a large role in Rudy's life did make such great contributions to enable him to pursue his dreams. Further, according to Rutteger, the climactic events of the film closely mirror what actually happened to Rutteger to make the story so impressive. The interview with Astin is only about two minutes long and therefore not very informative except to tell that Astin did in fact take the punishment onscreen himself, and did not let a stunt double take such punishing hits. The DVD also features bios for director David Anspaugh and actors Sean Astin, Jon Favreau and Ned Beatty. In addition to being few in number, the bios appear somewhat blurry when selected. While the extras on this DVD are less than impressive, what is impressive are the many languages for which subtitles have been provided- french, spanish, chinese, korean, and thai, possibly demonstrating the universal appeal of Rudy's story. Finally, the DVD also features an isolated musci score for those who wish to simply enjoy the music from the movie.
Having secured Rutteger's help in making the DVD, it is a shame that there is no feature-length commentary included on this Special Edition DVD. It is unquestionable that Rudy would have many additional stories to tell about his experiences, but sadly, the viewer is left with few, somewhat sparse comments about both the making of the film and the actual story.
While for anyone who hasn't seen this film, Rudy's actual accomplishments might seem less than inspirational, anyone who watches the film will likely feel otherwise. This is an incredible film and one likely to evoke an emotional response. Despite the DVD's lack of in-depth bonus materials, this is an amazing film that is definitely worth owning…even for those who don't like football or Notre Dame, it is a fantastic story.