Monday, January 26

4th and Long: Friday Night Lights on Acid.... in a Good Way

I went and saw an idependent film last week and reviewed it for our friends over at Arts á la Mode. The movie is titled 4th and Long and its an amusing mockumentary of people's obsessions over high school football and also an interesting character study. If you have a chance to see this one make sure you do, drugs are not required to enjoy. My review is after the break.

It is undeniable that football has become the secular religion of American culture. Every weekend, teeming masses of sports fans tailgate with friends, root for their team and occasionally act like idiots in the process. Tim Vandenberg’s 4th and Long is a mockumentary that follows three men who are entirely and insanely passionate about their local high school football team. The story follows their tales of devotion to their team and their quest to resurrect the program after it is cut by the local school board.

Larry is an overweight football fanatic for the New Hanover Wildcats who works in the school’s library. He never got the opportunity to play football because his parents would not allow it so he now lives out his fantasy through the experiences of the team. Larry is simple-minded yet attempts to be thoughtful, though his circular logic lands him in moments of sheer bewilderment to the dismay of those around him.

Charles or “The Chuck” as he is known is a somewhat senile old man who has been following New Hanover football since his younger days when he claims to have hung out with the great Sonny Jorgensen. It seems his only reason for living is the Wildcat’s football team. Chuck often gets caught up in moments of deep reflection lamenting an accident that claimed his wife, and the way his life has ended up in such disarray.

Nathan or “Coach D” represents the young, energetic and unfiltered version of an American football hooligan. He was an assistant coach on the team until he had a drunken run-in with the cops. His manner of dealing with the young players was too much over-the-top insults and red-faced yelling. Not surprisingly, Coach D’s misguided passion does him in when he is fired from the team, but it cannot stop him for rooting for his beloved Wildcats.

The film takes an in-depth look at the three men’s lives and how they live for the football team; how that in turn keeps them from living a functional life. Football is their only escape from the mistakes they’ve made and their shortcomings. The film, of course, is humorous and it delivers some fantastic laughs as you follow the escapades of the characters, but at some points you find yourself shaking your head at their constricted lives. In the end, though, the message is that football serves as a focus and outlet for these lonely/sad/misguided people. The characters are likable and I found myself rooting for them to be happy in their own simple ways.

Of course, the main thurst of the film is humor and there is no shortage of that. The small town football feel is captured brilliantly by director Vandenberg using the city of Wilmington, North Carolina as a backdrop. The actors are well cast and down to earth, and seem real enough to exist in any similar township in our country. There are some scenes that drag on too long but overall the film is a great watch for the sports fan or even for those who wonder what the fuss about football is all about.

Final Verdict:
4 Shacklefords(out of 5)

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