‘Rudy’ is feel-good, classic underdog story


RUDY, Sean Astin (center), 1993, ©TriStar Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

Rudy is hailed as one of the most inspirational films of all time, and rightly so.

Since I had recently watched Greater, which tells the story of Brandon Burlsworth (arguably the greatest walk-on in college football history), I expected it to be a similar tale (true story) of a talented athlete with a great work ethic who would go on to become a star player.

I was wrong.

Rudy isn’t anywhere near the athlete Burlsworth was, but nevertheless his story still manages to inspire. He never becomes a star player like Burlsworth – in fact, his skill level is quite terrible throughout his entire career. Rudy and Burlsworth are similar, however, in their dedication to the game. They both work hard and, ultimately, achieve their goals. Burlsworth’s career is more spectacular since he was even eventually drafted to play in the NFL, but that doesn’t make Rudy’s less admirable.

Rudy begins slowly, and honestly, it doesn’t pick up the pace until almost the very end of the film. Its ending, though, is unforgettable, and you can’t help but feel good after watching it. Its happy ending directly contrasts with Greater because of Burlsworth’s untimely death in a car accident.

Before that dramatic, inspirational ending, though, the film tells how Rudy worked harder than anyone — off the field, actually, just to transfer to Notre Dame from community college, and eventually walk-on the team his junior year of college. Even then, Rudy doesn’t get to dress out for a game until the last game of his senior season. Something miraculous happens in those final few seconds — something now attributed as the “Rudy play”  — something you’ll have to watch for yourself if you haven’t yet seen the film.

The film’s biggest asset is in its acting. Sean Astin (The Goonies, The Lord of the Rings) stars as Rudy, delivering a good, believable portrayal of the athlete. Ned Beatty (Deliverance, Superman) portrays Rudy’s father, Daniel Ruettiger, the hardworking, average middle class guy whose biggest thrill is watching Notre Dame football. Charles S. Dutton (Alien 3, Gothika) is Fortune, the football stadium’s groundskeeper who delivers the most famous lines of the entire film:

“You’re 5 foot nothin’, 100 and nothin’, and you have barely a speck of athletic ability. And you hung in there with the best college football players in the land for two years. And you’re gonna walk outta here with a degree from the University of Notre Dame. In this life, you don’t have to prove nothin’ to nobody but yourself. And after what you’ve gone through, if you haven’t done that by now, it ain’t gonna never happen. Now go on back.”

This small monologue pretty much sums up the entire message of the film — just because Rudy was your small, average guy doesn’t mean he couldn’t accomplish big things. He didn’t give up. The movie is slow at the beginning, but that’s because Rudy’s journey was not a fast climb to the top. He had to work for it, like most of us do, to fulfill his dreams.

Rudy is the prime example of the inspirational underdog story, and it’s definitely something sports-lovers and classic-film buffs should watch.

Photo courtesy of TriStar Pictures


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