A tale of the utmost dogged determination, Rudy has come to be considered one of the more resonant guilty pleasures in the pantheon of sports movies -- the kind that brings a tear to the eye of the gruffest of jocks. There's an almost nerdy earnestness about both the film and its main character, played with unblinking intensity by Sean Astin. A hero who wears his love of Notre Dame football proudly on his sleeve, with zero sense of irony, would be almost unthinkable in a 21st century sports movie -- it already seems quaint by 1994. But perhaps that's key to the film's charm. Rudy Ruettiger couldn't accomplish anything if he let people's perceptions of him dictate his choices in life. And since it's based on a true story, there's no cause to blame Rudy's roller coaster of travails and triumphs on screenwriting contrivances. Because the film has a reputation as kind of a B-sports classic -- in the same category as Major League -- it's probably not possible to go in without knowing it has a happy ending. Still, viewers will be pleasantly surprised if they think they know the shape of that ending -- it's much more life-sized than a writer of fiction would conjure. Hoosiers director David Anspaugh presides over the package without being flashy or syrupy, though the sentiment creeps through anyway. Angelo Pizzo is also back from Hoosiers with a sturdy script. Rudy is so much the focus of this script that the other characters tend to get short-changed, particularly Lili Taylor's Sherry. But Ned Beatty and Charles S. Dutton make the most of key supporting roles, and Astin carries the picture home.
by Derek Armstrong review