Release Date: 1993
Director: David Anspaugh (Hoosiers, Little Red Wagon)
Writer: Angelo Pizzo (Hoosiers, The Game of Their Lives)
Stars: Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Goonies), Jon Favreau (Iron Man Trilogy, Swingers), Ned Beatty (Superman, Deliverance)
Original Music: Jerry Goldsmith
Synopsis: Rudy has always been told that he was too small to play college football. But he is determined to overcome the odds and fulfill his dream of playing for Notre Dame.
David Anspaugh stands as one of those directors in film history that has impacted the art/industry a great deal but has a very short filmography. In fact, he has only directed seven feature films, although he has done some work for television, albeit also very limited. Rudy, along with Hoosiers, changed the game for the entire sports genre. Rudy changed not only how football movies are shot, but also provided the example that sports films are a prime platform for an award-winning composer to work on. Anspaugh and his cast and crew deliver cinematic perfection in every scene, in every shot. Anspaugh’s ability to direct is incredible, and from the feelings that bleed through the screen into our senses, we know that we must be connecting with quite an artistic mind. The perfect combination of drama, humor, action, and score makes for what I would call a masterpiece.
There are issues people have with any script that is “Based On a True Story”, but I think Pizzo did a phenomenal job of including and excluding what needed to be in the script. The character dialogues are extremely well-written and it takes a lot of sensibility about how an audience will react to be able to write scene-after-scene of this kind of material. The faux motivational speeches Rudy gives are my favorite, but of course many other scenes involving Ned Beatty and Charles S. Dutton were incredibly effective too.
Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty, and Charles S. Dutton turn in epic performances and I cannot imagine many films in their careers that would surpass their respective acting here. Astin, who plays our hero Rudy, makes me truly believe that no other individual in the world could have played Rudy this well. From scenes standing on chairs in empty locker rooms reciting Knute Rockne speeches, to dealing with family issues at home, Sean Astin is likable, gritty, and truly illustrates the never-give-up underdog spirit that the film aspires to. Favreau prevails in playing an awkward friend character to Rudy who helps him with homework in trade for Rudy’s help with women (both obviously lacking in both areas). I think some comparison could be made between the odd friendship here and that of Michael Cera and Jonah Hill in Superbad as you feel the two characters are very different but play off each other extremely well. My favorite scene in the film involved Astin and Charles S. Dutton though, who played as a mentor to Rudy during his years in South Bend. The performances in this scene are absolutely phenomenal (especially Dutton) and the scene hits you like a hard punch in the gut when it happens.
What can be said about Jerry Goldsmith’s score? It won awards, it has been used in dozens of trailers since, and I recognized the music even as I had never seen the film. This is the kind of awe-inspiring, transcendental composition that makes it worth commenting on the music in films. It doesn’t get better than this.
This is one of the greatest stories ever told on film in Hollywood, and a great example of how “Hollywooding” something up a little can turn a fantastic true story into something that can affect the viewer even more than just the truth. These are the kinds of films that can only be done in America.