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Super Bowl Report

3. 'Rudy'

February 01, 2009|Martin Miller

There may be no crying in baseball, but ever since "Rudy," there is in football.

This 1993 based-on-a-true-story film about a walk-on athlete -- all of "5-foot nothing" -- from small-town Indiana whose dream and never-say-die attitude carry him to the University of Notre Dame's revered football field deserves a roster spot on any list of best football, or even sports, films. (It's simultaneously on my personal list of worst football films ever -- part of the complex emotions cleat-wearers experience when watching this lovable tear-jerker.) In short, it's "The Devil Wears Prada" and "Terms of Endearment" rolled into one for men, except that nobody really important dies, nobody dresses as well and nobody sleeps with Simon Baker.

Along with its grass-stained and mud-caked inspirational tone, the film, directed by David Anspaugh, is notable for its raft of young soon-to-be stars. Sean Astin is utterly convincing as the gridiron-tough title character, jilted by Lili Taylor (his girlfriend), heckled by Vince Vaughn (a crybaby scholarship player) and befriended by Jon Favreau (a jovial tutor).

"Rudy was the first movie that I had a real role in," wrote Favreau in an e-mail. "It was a magical experience and I hung around the set even when I wasn't working. I was disappointed when it underperformed at the box office, but it later took on a new life. Over time it became part of our culture and is often referenced. The score pops up everywhere. Much like its title character, the film seems to have succeeded because of its heart."

The film's band of brothers sequence where all the Notre Dame players surrender their roster spots so Rudy can wear the blue and gold for one game should be enshrined into a nearby Hall of Fame along with similar weepy moments in "Dead Poets Society" ("O Captain! My captain!"), "An Officer and a Gentleman" ("Way to go, Paula!") and "Billy Jack" (silently standing with raised fists).

Now break and have yourself a good cry!

-- Martin Miller

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