Monday, 7 May 2012

95% Undefeated

All Critics (77) | Top Critics (29) | Fresh (73) | Rotten (4)

Volunteer high school coach Bill Courtney says, "Football doesn't build character. Football reveals character." The triumphant sports documentary "Undefeated" proves that it does both.

[A] stirring, emotional portrait of a high school football team in the impoverished neighborhood of North Memphis, Tenn.

It's a bit too long and a bit too vague at times, but this is a film about dedication, progress and the bond of human effort. It just also happens to include football.

"Undefeated'' needs less of what we know we've seen (the football stuff) and more of the players' and coaches' lives, which even if we feel we've seen, we haven't.

What makes this a terrific film is how much we care about the players.

In truth, the story that unfolds is better than the filmmakers' sometimes overwrought attempts to frame it ...

With a story that proves to be heartwarming and predictable, Undefeated mostly plays according to the script familiar in its fiction and nonfiction counterparts.

Even though the film relies on many of the clich?s of the form, Undefeated is a masterfully crafted work that honestly scores a touchdown.

"Undefeated" doesn't have a deep penetration of poverty and race in its playbook, but it does have enough heart to make substantial forward progress.

It's a surprisingly moving, emotional film, even for those who (like me) know little of football; by its end, you just might be blinking away a few tears.

Peers empathetically into a tiny world and opens it up for its audience, who, in turn, will surely open their hearts to it.

Combines the gritty reality of "Hoop Dreams" and the heart of "Friday Night Lights," along with a dash of "The Blind Side."

For all its good intentions, the film, like its main subject, is a tourist, earning trust as it earnestly captures the incredible struggles of these young men, but never digging deep enough to actually make the story theirs.

A touching documentary that offers a field-level portrait of male mentorship, compassion and unvarnished hope - all without a Hollywood ending.

It is a powerful reminder of the difference one person can make -- and of the consequences when no one is willing to make that difference.

What lifts 'Undefeated' above other sports docs is the remarkable force of Bill Courtney's personality.

It may call to mind The Blind Side or Remember the Titans, but there's no Hollywood glitz in the blighted burg of Manassas.

I regret that we don't meet more of Courtney's players, but that might have required a miniseries rather than a movie. And "Undefeated" makes sure the coach who is its central figure is more complex and fascinating than most fictional movie characters.

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