High school football is of huge importance to the citizens of hundreds of small towns throughout the United States. But in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, it's a family affair. In 1999, coach Mike Pettine Sr. began the season looking to extend the Central Bucks West 30-0 win streak and to gain his unprecedented third straight state championship. Along the way, however, he'd have to face the number two team in the state, coached by his son Mike Pettine Jr.
The drama unfolds in The Last Game, as directors T. Patrick Murray and Alex Weinress follow CB West from training camp to the final game of the regular season and beyond. The documentary shows just how passionate high school football can be, but it's so much more than that. On one hand, this film shows how a hard-nose coach can help young men develop the drive and determination necessary to become winners. On the other hand, it shows how a family can become divided over a game, yet remain a family that loves and respects one another.
Football fans will definitely enjoy this film as it opens up closed doors by showing how tough it can be for these boys to play under the reign of what will be seen by some as an evil tyrant. Pettine Sr. yells and screams and curses. But regardless of what you may think of his coaching styles, he gets the boys to play. And he gets them to win.
What helps make this film so dramatic is that it isn't all about the game. Joyce Pettine, wife to Mike Sr., shares her thoughts along the way and shows how high school football effects the family. Her interviews are cut with game and practice clips in such a way to ground the drama in reality for those viewers who have never participated in the game. Her comments and those of the boys learning to adjust to their coach's wrath makes this film dramatic from start to finish. At the end, I was pulling for the team as if the games were live, something I don't think I would've done had I not learned to feel for the people involved.
While Murray and Weinress were following CB West, ESPN was following North Penn and coach Pettine Jr. in The Season. While both documentaries are great in their own right, I think they compliment each other perfectly. They give more depth to each coach and each team, something a single documentary could never do. But even if you've never seen The Season, The Last Game stands up as a wonderful documentary not only about a football and its coach, but so much more.
Image Entertainment presents The Last Game in a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that is surprisingly effective. Colors are bright and vibrant, so the uniforms really stand out. Detail is fairly sharp and consistent throughout the film. Some noise is evident during darker scenes, but this is never distracting. Considering the directors generally only had natural light to work with, the transfer looks great. It won't stand up to a modern Hollywood presentation, but for a small documentary, it works perfectly.
The Dolby 2.0 track here is adequate, but occasionally I wanted more. For the most part, the dialog comes through crisp and clear, with only a few instances of muddled conversations appearing here and there. For a documentary such as this one, that's all I would expect. However, I can't help but wonder what some of the football action would've sounded like had there been a low end involved. Not that much bass would be necessary, but with the hard hitting on the field, a little bass would've gone a long way.
THE BONUS FEATURES
The bonus feature highlight for this film's DVD is definitely the director's commentary, which is both engaging and informative. Directors and producers Tim Patrick Murray and Alex Weinress really know how to share the mic as they discuss their personal involvement with the film from the initial ideas to the final edit. This is a fun commentary that details the finer points of making a documentary and gives more insight into the CB West football program.
While I was pleasantly surprised by the director's commentary, I was a little disappointed by the coaches' commentary. Coaches Mike Pettine Sr. and Mike Pettine Jr. discuss the season as it progresses on screen, but there are too many pauses between comments to be truly engaging. Although the two occasionally express their thoughts and feelings on what it's like to coach winning football programs, their discussions generally are less than entertaining and border on tiresome.
Up next are 10 deleted scenes that further expand on the coaching styles of Pettine Sr. These scenes may not have improved the final cut of the film, but they are great to see presented here as they add even more detail to the personalities involved, both on and off the field.
You also get a trailer for the film and a still gallery.
The Last Game isn't just for football fans. It is a surprisingly remarkable drama about family, determination, and a team's struggle to stay together from beginning to end. This DVD could be a great blind buy for documentary and football fans. If you only have a passing interest in the subject, it's at least worth a rental.