Gracie (2007) / Drama

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for brief sexual content
Running time: 95 min.

Cast: Carly Schroeder, Dermot Mulroney, Elisabeth Shue, Christopher Shand, Karl Girolamo, Julia Garro, John Doman, Jesse Lee Soffer, Andrew Shue
Director: Davis Guggenheim
Screenplay: Lisa Marie Petersen, Karen Janszen

Review published June 17, 2007

It plays like one of those films based on a true story, but it's really a fiction film that draws from some personal experiences of actor (and former pro soccer player) Andrew Shue (The Rainmaker, "Melrose Place") growing up and attending Columbia High School, the South Orange, New Jersey school depicted in the movie.  The main character is very loosely based on Andrew's sister, actress Elisabeth Shue (Dreamer, Hide and Seek), who appears in the film as Gracie's mother.  Both of them suffered the loss of their older brother in a swimming accident, though that wasn't until the late-80s, when both Shues were adults.  Director Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth, Gossip) also ties into the family affair, as he is Elisabeth's husband.

Gracie Bowen (Schroeder, Firewall) is the a girl with three brothers, living in the shadow of her very gifted older brother, Johnny (Soffer, Matinee), one of the school's star soccer players.  The night after losing a big game to a rival school, Johnny tragically dies in a car accident, leaving the family distraught, particularly Johnny's father, Bryan (Mulroney, Griffin & Phoenix), also a former school soccer player who trained Johnny to be the best practically since birth. 

Always teased by her bratty brothers for being the only girl, Gracie's dream of replacing Johnny on the varsity soccer team the following year is repeatedly ridiculed, with her father leading the charge on making sure she gives up the foolish notion before she hurts herself.  Undeterred, Gracie perseveres on winning over her father, but getting on the team is far from certain, as the school has no provision for letting girls play on the boys' team.

Gracie is a typical feel-good sports drama that traverses over familiar obstacles in order to get to its inspirational ending, where the protagonist shows the world that she is everything that others said she couldn't be.  Had the on-the-field events been recreations of things that actually happened, one could presumably find the film much more inspirational, as it sets up Gracie as some sort of pioneer for girls in playing professional soccer. 

For a formula film, it's watchable stuff for those who tend to like these sorts of films.  The good starring performance by Carly Schoeder is the main asset, and even if the plot never strays from the Rocky-esque paces (the name-yelling ending is particularly reminiscent), it does touch the right notes at the right times for us to be rooting for Gracie to succeed in the end.  The film also dips into the Karate Kid bag (a film that also starred Elisabeth Shue) by giving her persistent bullies for her to show up during the climax of the film. 

Certainly, Gracie isn't the sort of movie that will stand out in the sports drama arena, unless you happen to have ever played girls' soccer, in which case, it might be inspirational on a more personal level.  It's not meaty enough to be remarkable, and despite tying in to the personal reflections of Shue and his family, it's still a bit on the generic sports drama side.  Nevertheless, it's worthwhile for sports genre fans, and those who just like stories about overcoming adversity, no matter how many times it's been shown before in countless similar stories.

Qwipster's rating:

2007 Vince Leo