Forever Strong (DVD Review)19 Apr, 2009 By: Erik Gruenwedel
Prebook 4/21/09; Street 5/26/09
Box Office $0.7 million
Rated ‘PG-13’ for thematic material involving teen drug and alcohol use and some disturbing images.
Stars Sean Faris, Gary Cole, Penn Badgley, Arielle Kebbel, Sean Astin, Julie Warner, Neal McDonough.
Outside of Commonwealth countries, rugby is a sport many have heard of but few have watched or, arguably, cared about.
Kudos then to Forever Strong, a 2008 feature film that juxtaposes the origins of American football (played without pads and helmets) with the struggles of talented player Rick Penning (Sean Faris of Never Back Down) trying to please an emotionally distant father/coach (Neal McDonough).
When a night of partying and drinking poolside with teammates results in an auto accident that seriously injures his girlfriend, Penning is sent to a correctional facility where the warden (Sean Astin) just happens to have ties with the rival Highland rugby team.
The incorrigible Penning is offered a chance to shorten his sentence if he plays for Highland and, ultimately, against his former team (and related emotional baggage) for the national championship.
Filmed in picturesque Salt Lake City, Forever Strong at times feels like a made-for-TV movie that nonetheless tackles family and moral issues with strong acting and spectacular cinematography akin to high-school football movies such as Varsity Blues and Friday Night Lights.
Faris, who appears to have successfully distanced himself from the realm of pretty-boy model Tom Cruise lookalike, is a convincing misanthrope. With five films in production this year, including King of Fighters and Brooklyn to Manhattan, his career could indeed eclipse the action/thriller genre.