Rudy (2008)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: Sean Astin, Ned Beatty, Jon Favreau
Extras: Featurettes

Often referenced as one of the best so called "sports films" ever made, 1993's "Rudy, " directed by David Anspaugh has in the last fifteen years transcended its label as a sports film and entered into the favorites list of filmgoers who don't even like sports films. I am a perfect example of the type of audience this film does not cater to, I remember back when the film was first released I somehow hesitantly ended up at a screening and recall how the film completely drew me in to it's world of long held dreams and fighting an uphill battle against all mental and physical odds, even if it is just the type of film I normally avoid if I can manage.

This is the story of an underdog,a maverick if you will (have I been watching too many political shows?) who's unrealistic (and almost mentally unstable) obsession with playing football for Notre Dame becomes his sole driving force, and it's release on Blu-ray is an event many of the films fans have been waiting for, and I was happy to revisit the film to see if it still had the same magic it seemed to have when it was first released.

Based on a true story, the film follows the path of Daniel E. 'Rudy' Ruettiger in Joliet, Illinois in the 1960's. The town is basically depicted as very blue collar and it seems the highest many in the town can aspire to is to work in the local steel mill. At first the film seems like one of those overly sentimental Disney realities where things are almost surreal in their perfection, but then the characters start drinking and smoking and cussing, and the steel mill takes on an almost Burtonesque gothic feel and then we realize that we are not on the path we may have assumed, no, this is a trashcan Disneyland reality and the unexpected twists are refreshing and the old fashioned style of direction is at once comforting and somewhat offputting and humorous. It's like watching a cherished classic but the main characters have mouths from the gutter. This movie would get a PG-13 in this day and age, but it is that added touch of realism that really make this film stand out, I went to a Catholic high school and remember it was not the picture perfect world they put on the brochure.The Irish Catholic feel of this film is unmistakeable and perfectly flawed.

After graduating high school, Rudy takes a job at the mill alongside his father (Ned Beatty) and brothers and best friend Pete (Christopher Reed) whose unflinching belief in Rudy is something that keeps him going. Rudy has a love of football and wants to someday join the football program of Notre Dame, even if his lack of athleticism and Ivy League grades seems to hold him back (not to mention his hobbit like size) in the eyes of others.

But, when a very un-Disney-like and tragic explosion at the mill kills his friend he realizes it is time to chase his dream come hell or high water, and this inspirational and uplifting film will have you cheering all the way, and it also has quite a few genuinely hilarious scenes. Watching Rudy on his seemingly insane quest to attain the unreachable goal is what makes this film so uplifting, and it is truly inspirational to watch this most unlikely of heroes achieve what he does, even if we begin to wonder if he is trying to prove something to himself or to his friends and family in the end. "Rudy" is just as great as I remember it, and there is certainly something timeless about this film. If you have ever rooted for an underdog (or even a 'maverick'), this film is an easy recommendation. In fact this film is easy to recommend to almost anyone. All of the ingredients

The film also features excellent performances all around, especially Sean Astin's. This film also is the first film to feature Jon Favreau, who will emerge later as a major Hollywood talent. Keep an eye open for Lily Taylor, Vince Vaughn and a handful of other supporting roles and this film is a virtual who's who of future industry heavyweights.

As for this Blu-ray edition of "Rudy", it certainly will please many fans of this film, although some may find it a little slim in the special features department. The transfer itself is serviceable and certainly is far better than the 200 Special Edition, although perhaps it could have even looked better. The film has a very soft focus and the black levels are perhaps not as deep as they could have been, but the overall image integrity is very strong and many details emerge that were never noticeable before, it also features some noticeable film grain and overall retains a very theatre like feel overall. Many may think the film could have looked better, but it looks far better than it ever has before, but it certainly doesn't stand up to other catalog titles. Still, it is very detailed at times and I'm sure fans will forgive the transfers shortcomings. The sound department is in the same league, although it certainly features some exciting surrounds during the game sequences, this film is very talky and low key so the Dolby Digital TrueHD track doesn't compete with other lossless tracks, still it is more than serviceable, just don't expect to blow the roof off the house with this soundtrack.

As for the special features, we don't encounter anything really 'special', mainly a porting over of an already thin selection from the previous DVD edition. 'The Real Story' is only thirteen minutes long and less than enlightening even though it features the real Rudy. It fails to deliver and feels somewhat patched together. Add to this a three minute 'Production Featurette' and a small interview with Sean Astin and you may agree that the special features for this much loved film are criminally absent of anything with any merit and it appears they (TriStar/Sony Pictures Entertainment) haven't taken advantage of all of the resources they may have been able to tap into, because something tells me Astin and Favreau and many involved would have been willing to add to the original features. They don't seem to realize what a huge fan base this excellent little film has garnered over the years. Still, the audio and video upgrade are as much as I could possibly want, and this is certainly the version to own, I'll bet they have another version in the coming years.

Featuring a noticeably improved look and sound will be reason enough for many to pick this release up, they may feel they have scored a touchdown when they get it home, although further inspection reveals the studios may have fumbled in a few areas. Still, it is impossible to not recommend this excellent and uplifting story, it looks and sounds better than it ever has