Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Woodlawn starring Sean Astin & newcomer Caleb Castille opens October 16 (movie review)

Woodlawn is this amazing story of how Jesus Christ helped a football team overcome racial tensions after their school was integrated in the 1970s. It's based on the true story of the Woodlawn High School football team whose teammate, Tony Nathan, became the first real African American superstar. Sean Astin (best known for Rudy) plays Hank, a guy who went to a Billy Graham revival in Texas called the Jesus Revolution and just really felt lead to share Jesus in Birmingham, Alabama during one of the hardest times of racial tensions in the United States post-Civil War.




Hank comes to the football coach, Tandy Gerelds (took me the whole movie to figure out they weren't calling him "Candy."), to ask about coming to share his faith with the team. The coach says no, this is a public school. Then a fight breaks out between races and the coach gives Hank five minutes.

Those five minutes turn into an hour and after that, Hank asks if any of the team wants to start living for Jesus, playing football for Jesus. Almost the whole team, including the assistant coach, stands up. Amazing.
all images via Grace Hill Media
This movie is about love. How love through Jesus Christ can overcome racial tensions, differences between people, hate, anger. It happened in Birmingham, Alabama at Woodlawn High School. Throughout the movie, many characters mention that this team, there was just something about them, something special. Especially their tailback, Tony Nathan, an African American who ended up starting on their team. Of course, something unheard of in the South at that time.

What I loved about this movie: I loved how Jesus was portrayed. This was not a cheesy movie. This had real drama, real action, real life. Jesus was portrayed like He is! Love. A God who can break the chains of hatred and differences. Hollywood usually does NOT portray Jesus like this or Christians as real nice people. We are usually portrayed in a comical fashion (like on the tv show "The Middle") or as snooty, holier than thou (like in the movie Saved!). Most of us are just your everyday sinners, trying to do our best to live and love like Christ. And I think Woodlawn portrayed that well.

I also love the football. I love sports and movies and movies about sports. There were some great scenes of football in this movie. Big A watched with me and mentioned that one team ran a play he'd never heard of, it was some silly name to a play. But otherwise, it was good. I will say this movie is reminiscent of Remember the Titans (so is the soundtrack! Great tunes!). Same sort of plot line but this is, of course, based on a true story (I can't remember if Remember the Titans is or not). The big difference between them is Jesus. This movie doesn't just say, well we can overcome anything by ourselves. This movie says we need Jesus to address the hatred in our hearts and really teach us how to love one another.

What I didn't love about this movie: The only thing I can come up with is that it felt rushed at times. I felt like there wasn't a lot of time spent connecting with the characters themselves. This is an emotional movie but to put so much in what is never enough time, it's hard. I'm sure it's very hard to balance keeping the action going and portraying what actually happened without the movie being 3-4 hours.

I don't think that this took away from the movie. I was crying at parts, especially the parts where people came to trust in Jesus. I'm a sucker for a conversion! And praise God this was not cheesy! It was good and real and beautiful.

Woodlawn truly is a great movie. I hope it does as well in the box office. You can help by going to the movies on or after October 16th when Woodlawn opens. Take a friend. Take someone who needs Jesus (which is us all!). Takes someone who knows Jesus. Take your mom. Take your dad. Take your kids (no bad words in this movie!). Take your teammates. Just go. And enjoy some popcorn while you're there.

Also be sure to enter my giveaway (open until October 30) for 3 books and a t-shirt from the movie. Check out the link to enter.

Disclaimer: I received a link to watch this movie before its release so I could tell you what I think of it. I think it's great. That and all other opinions are my own.

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