Movie Review: Woodlawn

Woodlawnby Patricia L. Dickson10/28/15
The movie Woodlawn is an Erwin Brothers Film that depicts real life events that took place in Alabama during the early 1970s at the height of desegregation. Historical footage from Governor George Wallace’s impassioned segregation forever speech played during the first minutes of the movie as well as parts of speeches from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The movie is based on the struggles of the newly desegregated football team of Woodlawn High School in Alabama. The coach, played by Nic Bishop (ABC’s “Body of Proof”), is tasked with trying to turn a losing team into a winning team while struggling to calm the racial tension between the white and black players.

After witnessing the constant fighting between the black and white players, a Chaplain, played by Sean Astin (“Rudy” and “The Lord of the Rings”), asked the coach if he could speak to the team. Reluctantly the coach agrees. The Chaplain straight out preached the Gospel with no holds barred and invited the players to accept Jesus Christ as an alternative to the hate that dwelt in their hearts towards each other. Several of the players went forward and professed their faith at the end of his sermon. The coach was astounded at the change that he began to witness in his players, yet he did not immediately grasp the Christian faith that warranted such a drastic change.

The main character in the movie was a black running back named Tony Nathan played by Caleb Castille (feature film debut). As he began to become a popular player on the once segregated football team, he and his family were constantly harassed by local white men in town who did not like the fact the he (a black kid) was getting more playing time than their sons. The climax of the movie was when Paul “Bear” Bryant, played by Jon Voight (no introduction needed), took an interest in Tony Nathan and began attempting to recruit him to play for the University of Alabama, coupled with the 1974 historical football game between Woodlawn and Banks played at Legion Field in Birmingham.

The movie’s main theme is the team deciding to change their focus from winning games to playing for a higher cause (depicted in the movie poster with the index finger pointing upward) of Jesus Christ.  It was when their focus and commitment (collectively as a team) turned to Christ that they started to win. The coach eventually attended Tony Nathan’s (his star player’s) church and got baptized and began praying with his team before games. He was reprimanded by the school’s superintendent and told not to pray anymore before the games. He disobeyed. Tony Nathan went on to play for the University of Alabama and nine NFL seasons with The Dolphins.

If you like history and desire to see a faith based good family movie, Woodlawn will truly warm your heart. This is a movie for everyone.

PatriciaDicksonPatricia Dickson blogs at Patricia’s Corner.
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6 Responses to Movie Review: Woodlawn

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Terrific review, Patricia. Thanks for taking the time to do it. I’ll definitely be watching this as soon as it’s available. I like Sean Astin in this role gauging by the trailer. One of the lines he says is “Without a vision, the people perish.”

    • Brad,
      The movies is showing right now. It started showing October 16th. This is the best movie that I have seen in a long time. In fact, I am thinking about going to see it again.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Your review reminded me of the same sort of heart-warming theme found in Radio, or even Rudy. Combining sports, inspiration, and racial relations. What’s not to like?

        Also, see my review of The Great Debaters. I watch movies such as Radio and The Great Debaters and it’s a much more productive way of smoothing over race relations. It’s okay to pull for the black person who is struggling, sometimes against all odds, to meet life with integrity. What I don’t find noble is rooting for black people who are strung out on drugs, engaging in crime, treating women like ho’s, wearing their pants down on their knees, or drop f-bombs at the drop of a hat. No white guilt requires me to honor such thuggery or vulgarity.

        But I’m a sucker for a true underdog. A black man came to my door this Saturday and wanted to know if I knew how to contact the pastor of a nearby church. I invited him into my office and gave him the number. He was in his early 20’s and had the hang-dog appearance of the sincerely bedraggled. He told me he wanted to put his life back together and to find a job. I told him that Pastor R (also black) was just the man to do it.

        The human element shines through much stronger than skin color. And all I could think of was the likelihood that here was another black youth poisoned by Progressive culture who is now the Prodigal Son trying to find his way back. I don’t say “bless you” to many people. I don’t throw that affirmation around like some people do. But I said it to this guy. And I hope he finds his way home.

    • Rosalys says:

      “Without a vision, the people perish.”

      That’s Proverbs 29:18(a).

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    The last movie Elizabeth and I saw in the theaters was The Phantom Menace, so we probably won’t get to this anytime soon. (There have been plenty of movies since then that I would have liked to see; we just never get around to it.) But it certainly does sound interesting, and I’m sure Elizabeth would appreciate it even more. Her father (a missionary in Japan, as I’ve mentioned) always saw the message of Christianity as anti-racist (we’re all sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, after all, and made in the image of God).

  3. Rosalys says:

    Pat, I hate football… but, I love this movie! I’d like to see it again, also – as much to support good Christian film makers, as well as just enjoying a good movie again.

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