Rick Penning (Sean Faris) is the captain of his high school rugby team and the team’s highest scorer. He’s also the son of the team’s coach (Neal McDonough). Coach Penning is obsessed with winning at all costs and refuses to tell his son that he’s proud of him. Coach Penning believes that emotion equals weakness and that only losers brag about doing their best. After a loss to the Highland High school rugby team, which is coached by Larry Gelwix (Gary Cole), Rick and his teammates blow of steam by drinking, driving, and crashing a car.
Rick is sentenced to juvie but his case officer (Sean Astin) can see that Rick needs rugby in his life so he arranges for Rick to play with the Highland Team. At first, Rick resents the new team and doesn’t want to follow Coach Gelwix’s advice on or off the field. Coach Gelwix makes the team do community projects while they’re not training and Rick says that’s not his thing. Rick just wants to score points and he doesn’t care about teamwork. But the team and the coach eventually win Rick over and, once Rick gets over being selfish and starts playing for the team instead of just himself, Highland High starts winning games and Rick becomes the team’s newest captain. But, when Rick gets paroled from juvie, he’s sent back home to his father, who expects Rick to reveal all of Highland’s secret plays and weaknesses. When Rick refuses to betray Coach Gelwix, his former teammates frame him and get him sent back to juvie. Rick ends up playing for Highland again, just in time for the state championship and a chance to lead Highland against his father’s team.
Forever Strong had a good message but, from the first minute, I know what was going to happen and how it was going to all end. The story was pretty predictable and the movie seemed to assume that everyone watching would already know everything that they needed to know about rugby. At my high school, athletics pretty much meant football. I don’t think we even had a rugby team. (If we did, we never cheered at their games, which I feel bad about.) Whenever everyone in the movie was arguing about the right way to play rugby and which position on the team was the most important, I was lost. I did like Gary Cole as Coach Gelwix. He was the type of coach that every parent should hope coaches their child’s team.
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