Our review of Rudy (Blu-Ray), published September 18th, 2008, is also available.
"Look at you. You're 5-foot-nothin' and you weigh a hundred and nothin', and with hardly a speck of athletic ability."—Fortune (Charles S. Dutton), Rudy
Football + Inspiration / The 1970s—Cynicism = Rudy
Facts of the Case
Based on a true story, Rudy tells the tale of one boy's dream to play for Notre Dame's prestigious football team. All his life Rudy Ruettiger (Sean Astin, The Lord of the Rings trilogy) has been told that he's too small to play football, not smart enough to go to college, and not good enough to achieve his dreams. But Rudy won't give up. Rudy's family, including his brother and father (Ned Beatty, Deliverance) all work at the local factory in Joliet, Illinois, where Rudy grew up. Since he was a child Rudy's been a fan of the Fighting Irish, and his only dream has been to run out of the tunnel and onto Notre Dame's football field. However, everyone thinks Rudy's dreams are silly—he doesn't have the grades to get into ND or the skills to be a football player. But Rudy won't quit—his perseverance pays off when he quits working at the local factory, heads to South Bend, Indiana, where the president of the college, Father Cavanaugh (Robert Prosky, Dead Man Walking), gets him a shot at the local community college. If his grades are good enough there, Cavanaugh tells Rudy, he may have a shot at getting into Notre Dame and maybe, just maybe might find himself in tryouts for the football team. As Rudy studies hard and deflects everyone's doubts, he finds himself with an honest shot of being at Notre Dame University, and possibly playing on their football team. Rudy will soon show everyone that if you want something bad enough, dreams can come true.
Rudy is your typical underdog story. That's not a slam on the movie, just a fact—there was not a moment in this film where I couldn't predict what was going to happen. And yet I still enjoyed it, maybe because I was so comfortable with the formula—there is, after all, nothing quite as enticing as watching someone succeed when everyone tells them they're going to fail.
Rudy tells the story of a boy who doesn't know the meaning of the word "quit." Or "go away." Or "stop trying." As directed by David Anspaugh, who also helmed the equally effecting sports drama Hoosiers, Rudy doesn't recount its story with flashy characters or quick editing. The film takes its time unfolding. It lets the viewer get to know Rudy and the people that had an impact on his life, both good and bad. Often it feels as if there is no clear-cut good guy and bad guy—people like Rudy's father and brother, two characters who don't believe in Rudy's dreams, are portrayed more as sad individuals than antagonists.
Sean Astin delivers a very subtle yet strong performance as Rudy. In the hands of a lesser actor this character could have ended up as a grating wannabe; instead, Rudy is a likable guy. He is, in effect, the type of buddy you'd want to have drinking with you on a Friday night. Also showing fine form is Charles S. Dutton as one of the pivotal figures in Rudy's life, Ned Beatty as Rudy's discouraging father, and Elf director Jon Favreau as Rudy's school chum (also keep your eyes peeled for a very young Vince Vaughn). Truth be told, there isn't a bad performance in this film.
There really isn't a whole lot more to say about Rudy. The story moves at its own pace and leaves a nice taste in one's mouth after the credits roll. Rudy has become something of a classic among viewers, most likely because of its simple can-do spirit and "achieving under any odds" theme. It's nice to see a mild little sports drama garner an audience that appreciates it.
Rudy is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The film was originally released on DVD in the early days of the medium, and while I haven't seen that particular transfer, I can tell you that Columbia has done a decent job with this new Deluxe Edition's image. The colors are all bright and warm with natural flesh tones. The black levels appear to be in solid shape. I did notice a few imperfections in the image, mainly some dirt and an overall lack of sharpness in detail. However, the overall transfer appears to be in fine shape.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English. I was very pleased with how this sound mix turned out. There are some fantastic moments where all the speakers are engaged, especially when the Notre Dame football games are in effect. The bass rumbles loud and clear while Jerry Goldsmith's lush music score is filtered through all six speakers. Also included on this disc are Dolby 2.0 Surround mixes in English and Spanish, as well as English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Thai, and Korean subtitles.
All right Rudy fans, I know what you're thinking: two disc set, "Deluxe Edition," gotta be a huge amount of bonus materials. Uh, sure, whatever you say. Actually, this has to be one of the weakest special editions I've seen in a long time—almost all of the features found on this set were on the previous DVD release!
The best of the supplements is on disc two, which isn't a DVD at all—it's actually a CD that features the original music score by Jerry Goldsmith. Ten cuts are on this disc. This appears to be the only new supplement included on this set.
On disc one there is a short featurette ("Rudy: The Real Story") on the real Rudy. This is a pointless featurette as all it does is recap the movie with the real Rudy telling us about what happened. No new insight is given into the man this movie was based on and it only lasts for around 12 minutes. An original featurette from the early 1990s includes interviews with the director, screenwriter Angelo Pizzo, producers Cary Woods and Robert N. Fried, and actor Charles S. Dutton. This very short, fluffy piece includes some behind-the-scenes footage and clips from the film. Even worse is "60 Seconds with Sean Astin," a minute long interview with the star of the film discussing Rudy's "universal message." Lame.
Finally, there are a few theatrical trailers, a few talent bios on the key players from the film, and an optional isolated soundtrack for Jerry Goldsmith's music score.
I enjoyed Rudy much more than anticipated. The story is fairly simple but told in a straight forward and honest way. Sean Astin is engaging and the final moments will put a lump in your throat. What won't get you choked up is Columbia's half-assed "Deluxe Edition"—with only a single soundtrack CD as its sole "new" feature, this set isn't worth picking up if you own the original release. Talk about fumbling the ball.
Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!
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• Three Featurettes
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