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we are marshall
Click for full sized poster

We Are Marshall

Starring Matthew McConaughey
Screenplay by Jamie Linden
Based on a story by Cory Helm
Directed by McG

IN SHORT: If nothing else, We Are Marshall proves that "you don't have to win to be a winner. You just have to have heart." One of the best of the year. [Rated PG for emotional thematic material, a crash scene, and mild language. 124 minutes]

The town of Huntington, West Virginia is home to Marshall University. To get there, you fly in to Charleston -- Cranky's got family there -- whose airport literally sits on the side of a mountain. If you have a weak stomach, we don't recommend the window seat for your first flight in. The mountainside rushing up towards you would scare the junk out of any unprepared person. The story told in We Are Marshall begins with the Marshall football team, its coaches and several dozen fans and boosters flying home after a game and recreates the aftermath of what happens when their chartered airplane misses the mark.

Assistant coach Red Dawson" (Matthew Fox), who missed the flight -- he drove back in order to recruit a new player along the way, walked away from football entirely. President of the College Donald Dedmon (David Strathairn) is ready to shut the athletic program down as is the school president (Ian McShane). Three players who didn't make the game live with survivors guilt. It is because of the fervor of one of them, Nate Ruffin (Anthony Mackie), that the administration changes course about shutting down. First problem of rebuilding: no one with credentials wants to come near the school. President Dedmon has a long list of potentials to speak with. At the end of the day he has a sheet of paper with a lot of names crossed off.

Enter outsider Jack Lengyel (Matthew McConaughey), who comes out of a school so tiny, no one knows it. Lengyel, for whatever reason (and that will come out in due course of the film), is driven to help the school and rebuild its "Thundering Herd". As an outsider, untouched in any way by the tragedy, he is probably the only one who can. He convinces Red to come back for a year. He recruits new coaches. He prods President Dedmon to do the impossible: convince the NCAA to bend the rules and allow freshman students to play ball.

And an untested team goes to play, kinda like potatoes into a masher.

Cranky's not being snide. When push comes to shove, the film doesn't care about forcing the big win/ Rocky-style feel. What happens is what happens and the film's script deals with those events with remarkable humor. That doesn't mean the average viewer won't have anything to cheer about. You will. Come this time of the year (Dec 2006 for latecomers) the movie screens are usually packed with inspirational and or Oscar wannabe releases. Jamie Linden's script and McG's complete film is an inspirational package. If it wasn't for an occasional four letter word -- kidlets of eleven plus probably won't blink -- it would be one of the top family friendly films of the year, period.

Like the team's releationship with its community, nothing jumps out of We Are Marshall as a star turn or blatant nomination come on. We've spent the last week screening a dozen plus films that are and walked in to this screening exhausted. We walked out enervated. If that's not enough of a recommendation, you don't live on the same planet I do.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to We Are Marshall, he would have paid . . .


Frankly? If it had been a slow time of the year, We Are Marshall is good enough that we could have planted a second time just for the pleasure of seeing it again (our definition of a perfect $10). It's close, but more likely to sit on our DVD rack for a rainy day sometime in the future. It is highly recommended.

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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.