'The Game of Their Lives' and 'Madison'

Thirty years prior to the U.S. Olympic hockey team's 1980 gold medal triumph in Lake Placid, N.Y. (dramatized last year in the film "Miracle"), an equally unlikely upset occurred when a hastily assembled American squad beat international soccer powerhouse England, 1-0, in the first round of the World Cup.

"The Game of Their Lives" — written by Angelo Pizzo and directed by David Anspaugh, the team that brought you the crowd-pleasing "Hoosiers" and "Rudy" — follows that 1950 World Cup team from tryouts held only weeks before they departed through to the climactic tournament in Brazil.

Opposites clash as a group of scrappy players from an Italian section of St. Louis known as the Hill attempts to mesh its loosely improvisational style with the more disciplined approach employed by the East Coast players who make up the rest of the team in this oddly flat film.

Despite strong performances by Gerard Butler and Wes Bentley as the leaders of the two factions and crisply directed soccer action, the movie lacks a powerful central presence to carry the drama. Like a corner kick that doesn't quite bend, "Game" is a faithful, straightforward docudrama that fails to become something more rewarding.

"The Game of Their Lives," PG for some mild language and thematic elements. Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes. In general release.

Putting 'Madison' back on the mapJim Caviezel, who last year played one character capable of walking on water ("The Passion of the Christ") and another who could drive a golf ball over it ("Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius"), stars as the pilot of a hydroplane racer that skims the water in the painfully sincere drama "Madison."

The film is based on the true story of Madison, Ind., an Ohio River town that in 1971 was on the verge of becoming a Rust Belt casualty of modernization after trucking superceded shipping as the region's preferred mode of commercial transit. Caviezel plays the volunteer crew chief of the municipally owned boat, the Miss Madison, who rallies his fellow citizens as they attempt to raise $50,000 to stage hydroplaning's prestigious Gold Cup in the hope of turning around the town's fate.

Directed by William Bindley from a script he wrote with his brother Scott, "Madison" was made before "Passion" or "Bobby Jones" and benefits from Caviezel's ability to project earnestness better than nearly any actor currently working, but its near-comic predictability, "What else could go wrong?" plotting and cliché-ridden screenplay sink it.

"Madison," PG for some mild language and sports peril. Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes. At selected theaters.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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