Thursday, February 3, 2011

Good Movies Teens Will Like: Forever Strong

One of the reasons I started this blog was to let youth and youth leaders know about some of the good and clean movies that I have seen that they might have missed, (well, that is one of the reasons my friend Ken told me to start it for anyway) so with that thought, here is my first suggestion.
What It Is About - Forever Strong is a movie about two things, Rugby, and Redemption. The main story is about a young and spoiled high school rugby player named Rick Penning. Rick has everything a young man could want, (well, almost everything, mor
e on that in a moment) he lives in a huge home, has a beautiful girlfriend, drives a red sports car, is good looking (he even has a beauty mark), athletic and is the star of his high-school rugby team, in fact, the only thing Rick doesn't have is the love and respect of his father (who just also happens to be his coach) or any kind of feeling of contentment about who he is. This leads Rick to play dirty, show off, and being the alpha male amongst his friends, do such fun things as drinking and driving. Now it is just such a time, that Rick and his team mates are celebrating after a loss to their hated rivals Highland, (yeah, makes no sense to me either, they lose but party like they won) that Rick and his girl go out driving after the party is over and Rick, being inebriated (that is a fancy word for being drunk, I thought I would just show off my skills as a word writer guy) that he crashes his car, injuring his girlfriend and get sentenced to teen jail (they don't really call it teen jail in the movie, it is called Wasach Juvenile Detention Center, but that is what it is, none the less). Ok, now Rick lives in Arizona, and Jail is in Utah, which is about 650 miles apart, (I actually map quested it incase you were wondering how I knew that) so he is kinda far from home, but more important, Utah is also the home of the Highland rugby team, and that changes everything, but more on that later.

So, Rick is stuck in teen jail, he still
has to go to school, but also group sessions where he has to talk about his feelings (which he is a huge fan of), and when he does bad stuff (like pick fights, or kicking peoples chairs out right before they sit down in them, you know, all those kind of shenanigans) he gets to clean the toilets, and the toilets start to get very clean, if you know what mean (if you don't know what I mean then just pretend you do, it will be better for both of us). So, it is at this point the head of Wasach (who used to have hairy feet and carried his best friend up a mountain once) decides to call his old rugby coach to see if he can help Rick get a better attitude and possibly get out of teen jail sooner for good behavior.
So Rick reluctantly decides to play for Highland, and now for some background info on Highland, oh, and I forgot to mention it up until this point, but this is actually based on a true story. So, Highland rugby team is pretty much a legend, they're the winningest team in American high school history. They have had the same head coach, Larry Gelwix, since the team began (over 40 years ago), and he has a very particular way of coaching. Larry Gelwix (that's the coaches name for those playing along at home) doesn't yell and bark orders at his players, instead he does everything he can to make them better, in rugby and in life (I will give you two quotes from Gelwix here so you can see what I mean, "I don't build championship teams, I build championship boys." and "I want you to be forever strong on the field, so that you will be forever strong off the field." see what I mean, it is more then just a game to Coach Gelwix). If you want to be on the Highland rugby team you are expected to meet some pretty high standards. You must be honest, hard working, do no drugs, alcohol and stay out of trouble in school and also with girls. Rick initially laughs about these rules, calling the team a bunch of
choir boys, but this slowly starts to change. The team also does a lot of running (and I mean a lot of running, I never would have been able to make the team, cause running seems to be one of those things you actually have to do to be good at, and let's just say, well, I am not a runner, I am more a stroller, not the kids kind with wheels mind you, that would just be silly) and then when they are done running, they do things like free yard work and landscaping for the local hospital, and then when they are done that, they go up to the 6th floor and read and play games with the sick kids. Rick does not like this, but the more he is with the team, the more he is affected by them, and from there let's just say the movie flows and by the end, Rick's a better person and has a better relationship with his father, plus you get to see some cool rugby and funny scenes along the way.

Why Teens Would Like It - Forever Strong is your typical sports movie, but that is a good thing. It has lots of cool rugby scenes, believable characters that you become invested in and is also very funny. The characters might come off as stereotypical to some, but pretty much every teen I have ever shown it to has come away liking it. Saying that, I have shown this movie to teens on two separate occasions, once to my small group (I lead the grade 10/11 guys small group at my church, so big shout out to my boys) and I did a movie night at my church for teens (both guys and girls attended) and both times it was a big hit. In fact, a couple of my guys have borrowed my copy of it (as of right now you can still get it on DVD at blockbuster in their used section for about $6 in case you wanted to go get a copy for yourself or your dog, cause dogs like movies too) and if DVD's could be worn out they might of done it (as far as I know, Brian had it for a couple weeks and watched it 13 times, Connor had it for 3 days and watched it 6 times and I am not sure how long Jon AKA "Snowflake" had it, but I think he said he watched it 3 times) so I think it is safe to say they liked it. All in all this is a movie that is just pretty likable and although I don't really know anything about rugby, I still was able to enjoy it.

Why Leaders Will Like It - Forever Strong is at it's core a tale of redemption. Although it starts out showing teens drinking, with Rick being the leader of the pack, by the end of the movie teen drinking is shown to be stupid, with Rick turning down beer and then having to fight cause they won't leave him alone about it. Other then the drinking, Forever Strong shows how coaching, athletics and teamwork can help shape young people into a better version of themselves (in the movie they refer to this as "dig down deep and first stringing the real Rick Penning" which happens by the end of the movie when Rick is not a different person, but a better Rick then he was before). For much of the movie it looks at doing the right thing, and telling the truth, even when that will bring about a consequence, quoting Coach Gelwix "Good decisions don't make life easy, but they do make it easier.". Throughout Rick finally starts to learn from his mistakes and brings about change, which is a great lesson for teens and adults to learn alike. The other reason leaders will like Forever Strong is it is a very clean movie. It has no sex, very little bad language and what is said is mild, drug and alcohol use is shown and then condemned as being stupid and the team upholds a high moral principle. All in all, Forever Strong is an awesome movie to show teens.
Ok, there is nothing overly blatant in Forever Strong, (which means no one pulls out a bible and starts beating Jesus into anything that moves) but it is obvious that Larry Gelwix has a faith and that impacts the way he lives his life and coaches his team (it is never mentioned in the movie what in particular Gelwix's faith is, but after doing some checking it appears, unless wikipedia is lying to me (which has happened before) that Larry Gelwix is a Mormon, which I kinda figured since the movie is set in Utah and that is Mormon central and all, but this is never stressed in the movie). This is shown most at one point in the movie, Rick finally opens up to coach Gelwix when he is asked to be a team captain, saying, "I don't get it, you know
exactly why I am here and you still act like you care. I'm just a no good spy who cheap shotted your star player last year!" to which Gelwix replies, "First of all, I attribute that cheap shot to your coach and not you, and second let's focus on where you could end up, not where you were or are. And, God doesn't make a no good anything.". That is really the only time I can think of that God is really mentioned in the film, although the team is shown praying before one of the games. What you do get to see is a positive role model in Coach Gelwix and much of that is due to his faith, so it is more about doing then talking in Forever Strong, but since this is all based on a real guy and his team, the doing has obviously worked for the last 40 years, so I don't see any reason that he would change that now.

So to sum it all up, if you are looking for a clean sports movie that is acted well and is
funny to boot, then give Forever Strong a chance, at the very least the worst that could happen is you will be more confused about rugby then before you started, and that is not all that bad of a thing. So game on people, scrum away, and may the oddly shaped football be with you.


  1. thanks for the shout out :)

  2. I agree with all that you said. Pretty good Imagination.