Plot: What’s it about?
I have lived in Arkansas for 17 of my 43 years. I moved away in 2003 and haven’t been back since 2004, but one thing I’ll say about Arkansans is that they love the Arkansas Razorbacks. It doesn’t matter what school they went to, what pro team they’re fans of – they all love the Razorbacks (the terms “Hogs” can be used interchangeably). I, of course, have never been a fan. Go figure. But every once in a while a player comes along that’s a bit different and, for lack of a better word, more memorable. Brandon Burlsworth was one of those players and even me, a non-Razorback fan, remember when his life was cut tragically short by a freak accident. Burlsworth was known for his trademark black horn-rimmed glasses and being labeled with the moniker “the greatest walk-inn football player in the history of college football.” That’s high praise and the notoriously humble Burlsworth wouldn’t have liked that moniker. This is his story.
We meet Burlsworth (Christopher Severio) as a child, an overweight kid who someday wants to play football for the Razorbacks. HIs much older brother Marty (Neal McDonaugh), often confused for his father, looks out for him. Brandon is a god-fearing person, he never drinks, swears or thinks of himself first. So when he walks onto the Arkansas Razorback football team as a red shirt (non scholarship player), he’s chastised, made fun of for his weight and just about every other cliche you can think of. But Brandon makes something of his, he uses this as motivation to drop the weight, add muscle and it’s not long that he catches the attention of the coaches. Think of him as Rudy, but with actual athletic talent. He would go onto start for the Razorbacks, be drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the 1999 draft and was set for a career in the NFL. Until tragedy struck.
There are actually a lot of parallels between Greater and Rudy, both being true, inspirational stories and both centering around football. This feels like a Hallmark movie and it might be, I haven’t checked. And the only face most anyone will recognize is that of Marty (Neal McDonaugh) who was in Saving Private Ryan and Captain America among others. One thing I’ll say is that this is a good, family-oriented film that proves it doesn’t need sex, drugs and foul language to get the point across. I can only imagine how many shelves of Arkansas Razorback fans’ homes it’ll be in, and I do have to say that it is pretty inspirational. Fans of football, those who loved Rudy or those who are looking for a departure from the norm will likely get a kick (pardon the pun) out of Greater and it goes to show that we never now what curve life will throw us.
Video: How’s it look?
This might be a low budget film, but it doesn’t look like it. The 2.40:1 AVC HD image is virtually free and clear of any elements that might marr the image. Detail is fine and clear, flesh tones are warm and natural and contrast and black levels work well with one another. I noticed a few of the exterior shots seemed a bit soft and there were several instances of some moire in the textures of the shirts, but it’s nothing to get worked up about. I’m pretty sure that fans will love the way this looks. It’s a good-looking picture.
Audio: How’s it sound?
There are football moves out there that really make use of a DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack, but this isn’t one of them. Yes, there are a few instances when players hit in a game, but by and large this is a pretty standard track. Vocals are crisp and clear, surrounds are used albeit sparingly and I think there were a few missed opportunities with the LFE. This could have sounded better, but it certainly doesn’t detract from the film in the least.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Audio Commentary – Writer Brian Reindl and writer/director David Hunt collaborate for a pretty interesting track. They tell of the story of the project, why it was made now (nearly 20 years after Burlsworth’s death) and some of the support they received when making it. Fans will love this one and it’s a good, fact-filled track.
- Deleted Scenes – A series of deleted scenes that don’t offer a lot to the already long (131 minute) film.
- Bloopers – Some outtakes from the set.
- Theatrical Trailer
The Bottom Line
A story of inspiration and a must for any fan of football and, more to the point, of the Arkansas Razorbacks. Greater is a toned down version of Rudy, but that’s not to say that it’s not a worthwhile watch. The film both looks and sounds good, though I’d have liked to see a few more supplements. Still, a good film.