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Movie Review

Forever Strong

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material involving teen drug and alcohol use, and for some disturbing images.

Reviewed by: Angela Bowman
CONTRIBUTOR

Better than Average
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Family Teens Adults
Genre:
Sports Drama
Length:
1 hr. 52 min.
Year of Release:
2008
USA Release:
September 26, 2008 (limited)
DVD: May 26, 2009
Featuring: Gary Cole
Sean Faris
Neal McDonough
Sean Astin
Penn Badgley
more »
Director: Ryan Little—“Saints and Soldiers” (2004), “The Last Good War,” “Freedom on the Water”
Producer: Go Films, Picture Rock Entertainment, more »
Distributor: Excel Entertainment
Crane Movie Company

“The greatest victories are born in the heart.”

“Forever Strong” is a film inspired by Highland Rugby’s legendary coach, Larry Gelwix and his unconventional training methods and practices. The film centers on high school rugby player, Rick Penning (Sean Farris) and the effect playing for Highland Rugby has on him.

Rick’s father (Neal McDonough) is a rugby coach who is about winning at all costs, and the result of his attitude is apparent in his players, including his son. Rick parties and lives recklessly, which lands him in a juvenile detention center. With the assistance of Marcus (Sean Astin), in order to get his life back, he agrees to play for rival rugby team, Highland, coached by Larry Gelwix (Gary Cole) and learns that Coach Gelwix’s attitude and approach to rugby not only vastly differ from his father’s, but his practice and training methods extend far beyond the rugby field.

When Rick is released, he must decide whether to go back to his old life, or to continue the new life he has found with Highland. The changes he goes through during this affect not only him, but others around him, in particular his father and their relationship. It is a story about family, unity, honor, integrity, responsibility and reconciliation. It is not just about rugby, in fact “Forever Strong” comes from Highland’s motto, as Gelwix believes the person is more important than the game, and his ultimate purpose is to develop young men who will be “forever strong” both on and off the field.

I have to say, for a person who is not a sports enthusiast, the first few minutes of the film had me wondering what I had gotten myself into. The opening scene brings you right into the middle of a heated game, and I sincerely feared that I would be fighting to keep focus through the whole movie. For those of you who are sports fans, I am sure you will have no problems, however for those of you who are not, I urge you to keep watching, as this scene is important to the story, and now that I have seen the entire film, the next time around for me will have no agony whatsoever. The story soon unfolds around this broken young man who learns difficult lessons, seeing firsthand, the results of his wrong decisions and irresponsibility.

I found “Forever Strong” to be a wonderful, heart-felt family movie that had many lessons and wisdom to share. I really appreciated how it reflected the energy of real life, how not only our decisions affect ourselves, but others, and not just in the obvious and direct ways, but in how their personalities (and decisions they make) can be the affected by their observation of our actions and behavior, however separate they may appear. It lets us know not only are there consequences for our actions, and that you should make the right choices, but it shows how making the right choices can still be difficult, but should still be done.

I would also note that if you watch through the end of the film, after the credits, the team goes through their ritual “dance” one last time.

Objectionable Content

For a PG-13 film, I had braced myself for some language, however there was nothing verbally offensive at all. That being said, there was one scene in which two of the characters are using the common middle finger gesture of “flipping each other off” and while to my knowledge, it is not official sign language, it is a type of slang for the f-word and should therefore be noted.

There were a few poolside scenes with young people in bathing suits, and kissing scenes, however they were tame compared to what might be seen on network television.

This movie contains drinking, reckless driving and drug use, however these behaviors and actions are not glorified, and are shown as negative.

There are a few fighting scenes and because of the rough nature of rugby, there is also typical sports related violence and injuries: a few bloody noses/heads, but not overly graphic.

There was one scene in which a boy was locked up in a duffle bag, and while this was intended to be a joke, and was funny, I hope that we can encourage young people not to copy this behavior, as it is potentially very dangerous.

The Highland team embraces family and unity, and while this is great, they do talk about the spirit of deceased relatives and team members being with them and calling on their spirit, which may be part of the Mormon belief coming through in the movie, however, you could also look at this in a general sense, like team spirit. Because it was not emphasized or embellished, I wouldn’t use this as a reason not to view the film, but as it may be offensive to some people or cause confusion in young people, it is worth mentioning and might be something that a parent would want to discuss with their children afterwards.

All in all, it was very clean and relatively inoffensive. The Mormons, I have to say, have done a great job in coming out into secular entertainment and presenting clean and wholesome entertainment that even Christians can benefit from. This being said, as many of their values align with ours, Mormonism does vastly differ from Biblical Christianity in other ways and should never be considered Christian or confused with Christianity.

Violence: Mild / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: None


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive
Positive—I found this to be a wonderful film with many deep lessons to be learned. I attended this film with my family and we all loved it. I am confused at the rating of PG-13; I have viewed many movies rated PG that included content of much greater concern than this movie. …
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Sean Chilcote, age 42 (USA)
Positive—This is a great movie, and a must-see; here is why:

1. This movie actively preaches the “good clean living” that is so uncommon among today’s youth. Throughout the film, the coaches and players of the “good team” were continuously pushing the “no drugs, no alcohol, and treat girls with respect” message. I am a college student and it was quite a breath of fresh air to watch this film. There was, however, a “before” picture of Rick Penning (the center of the film) that preceded the “after” affects of his training. Before he changes the way he lives, the film shows him drinking, driving under the influence (and the consequences of doing so), and “doing drugs” (popping some small, white pills every now and then—no needles, or showing the effects of hardcore drug use). This, in my opinion, is not a detriment to the film, but is a tactful way of contrasting the “before and after” that I mentioned above. There was, however, one point that I did not appreciate. In the “before” picture, Rick is seen with his girlfriend doing the normal high school thing (kissing, pool parties, nothing objectionable in a film) but in the after, it shows a girl giving him a quick peck. While I don’t expect this film to go about preaching the “no kissing before marriage,” position, it showed a completely changed man in all other respects (drugs, alcohol, etc.) but with the last kiss, it showed only partial change. There is a clear difference between drinking and not drinking, but where do you draw the line between all-out smooching and a quick kiss. I know, I am being nit-picky, but hey, I’m supposed to write my thoughts, right?

2. The second issue I would like to talk about is relationships. This film handles them in about the best way a secular film can. In the end, the son sees the importance of respecting his father. ‘Nuf said.

3. While there is no specifically “Christian” teaching, there was mention of God in a positive way, and you see the players pointing toward the sky after a big win. There was, however, some chanting in another language, which after it is translated about half-way into the film, is all above board, except possibly one point. It mentions (and other characters in the film also point out) that our ancestors are “with” us. Not a big issue in my book, but it was in there, so I mentioned it.

4. All in all, this is one of the best sport movies I have seen, almost up there (in the message presented) with Facing The Giants. All it lacks is a complete Christian message, pulling that final kiss out, that would make it practically perfect.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Joshua Richardson, age 20 (USA)
Positive—“Forever Strong” is a feel good uplifting movie. I would caution parents that there are some parts of the movie that may be inappropriate. The obscene (flipping off) gesture, underage drinking, illegal drug use and bad attitude portrayed in the film by the main character and others show the symptoms of lives unhappy lives lived far from the teachings of the Savior.

The main character finally realizes his accountability for his life and with the help of his coach and his team turns his life around. The best thing about this movie was listening to my teenagers discuss these facts with each other after the movie. …
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Sydney Kanaga, age 44 (USA)
Negative

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