Forever Strong is a classic example of sports melodrama. The only wrinkle to this film is the sport. The sport in question, is not typical at all (i.e. Football, Basketball or Hockey) it is Rugby. The film revolves around a rambunctious youth, Rick Penning (Sean Faris) who runs into trouble with the law and is shipped out to a juvenile detention centre. He is introduced to Marcus (Sean Astin) who is an administrator and acts as Rick’s sponsor. After the initial introduction, Marcus uncovers Rick’s passion for Rugby and encourages him to play for his old team. Rick decides to play and the emotional journey begins from there.
The storyline draws some parallels to Remember the Titans. However, that is to be expected within this sports sub-genre. Most of these films tend to carry the same traits. Some of the characters are not very engaging and some of the storylines are a bit of a stretch. However, they do not need to be. Audiences get what they are expecting. This is the typical sports genre film. The casting is good. Getting Sean Astin to come back to this genre gives the film a Rudy-factor that adds some credibility to it. Also, Gary Cole’s performance as the Highland Rugby Coach Gelwix is quite good. Unfortunately, the performances are not impressive across the board. Neal McDonough’s aggressive father role is overacted and poor.
Rugby has not really taken off as a North American sport. That is probably the reason this film did not take off as much as expected. The sport itself is exciting and interesting. It is unfortunate that there is such a lack of exposure. Even with the based on true events tag line that lures audiences regularly, it did not do well at all. Had this film dealt with a more American sport, it probably would’ve faired better than it did. Overall, the film is not spectacular. However, it does offer an entertaining 110 minutes.
Forever Strong is presented in a 2.21:1 (16:9) widescreen aspect ratio. The transfer is seamless providing no grain, blotches or pixilation. There seems to be a great attention to detail when it comes to shot selection and the image that is presented does not disappoint. The blacks are deep and flesh tones are good. Overall, an above average experience.
The 2.0 Dolby Digital surround is not all that immersive. The Rugby scenes are not scored very well and can distract from the images presented. However, the rest of the scoring throughout the film is solid. Not many complaints here.
Commentary Tracks: There is only one commentary track that includes director Ryan Little and the actual Highland Rugby Coach Gelwix. Little has some film knowledge and sheds some light on the intricacies of filmmaking. The more interesting portion of this commentary is Gelwix’s perspective on Rugby and he also provides some amusing anecdotes along the way.
There are a few features. Some of them are more appealing than others. Here’s a breakdown.
Forever Strong: Behind the Scenes (22:29) A standard making of featurette, that gives some behind the scenes interviews. The audience gets an opportunity to see the real Coach Gelwix. Gelwix provides great insight into the fundamentals that his Rugby program preaches. The featurette is an interesting, albeit typical, behind the scenes documentary.
Life Lessons From Coach Gelwix: An assortment of motivational excerpts from varying Gelwix speeches and presentations. It has a Tony Robbins feel to it, some interesting approaches to life. It results in a pretty dense discussion for a puff piece.
The Haka (3:45): An appreciation for the pre game dance that New Zealand Rugby teams engage in. Gelwix again goes over the significance of this dance and the spiritual effect The Haka has.
Outtakes: A gag reel.
Viral Videos: Three twenty seconds clips that toured the internet in promotion of the film. Overall, they are not very indulging.
Theatrical Trailers: Self explanatory.
Forever Strong carries the burden of having Rugby as its primary thematic element. With most audiences being unaware of the sport, the emotional significance of the Rugby scenes is lost. The story itself is encouraging and the plethora of Coach Gelwix information viewers receive is educational. Overall, a fine watch.