The true story of the late Arkansas Razorbacks football hero Brandon Burlsworth is an underdog saga to rival “Rudy,” and while the modest Burlsworth biopic “Greater” doesn’t have that film’s inspirational spark, the indie drama is just sweet enough and slick enough to appeal to pigskin fans and Christian family audiences.
A fine cast helps. Neal McDonough (who also co-produced) plays Brandon’s older brother Marty, who raises him in lieu of their absentee alcoholic father (the always-excellent Michael Parks). Nick Searcy plays a mysterious figure Marty talks to about God during Brandon’s funeral, as the film’s framing device.
Star Christopher Severio gives a solid performance, if not up to the level of his more accomplished cast mates. The bigger problem though is that writer Brian Reindl and director David Hunt hit all the predictable beats too hard as Brandon overcomes his many doubters to become an All-American.
Still, Hunt and his crew also give “Greater” a polished look. And Burlsworth’s story is undeniably touching — and even a little unusual, since it’s not about some phenom, but instead salutes a hefty lineman who studied hard, followed his faith and became a role model to future Razorbacks.
The movie’s length is excessive and its arc over-familiar, but for those who don’t mind a little sap — or a lot — “Greater” is effective. Even Texas Longhorns might leave shouting, “Woo Pig Sooie.”
MPAA rating: PG, for thematic elements, some language and smoking.
Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.
Playing: In general release