Under the Stadium Lights (Sports, Drama) [True Story] [Based on Book] (2021)
Director: Todd Randall
Writer: John Collins, Chad Mitchell, Hamid Torabpour, Al Pickett (Based on book by)
Stars: Milo Gibson, Laurence Fishburne, Acoryé White, Carter Redwood
As their last football season is coming up, the players of Abilene High School overcome their personal struggles, ready to bounce back to the winning brackets.
As the directorial debut for Todd Randall, ‘’Under the Stadium Lights’’ is based upon the non-fictional book by Al Pickett and Chad Mitchell, the latter was also involved with the actual film itself. The book named ‘’Brother’s Keeper’’ tells the tale of this Texas-based football team and their drive to beat the competition in ’09.
Being catered to a particular audience, it becomes pretty clear that ‘’Under the Stadium Lights’’ will primarily be appealing to those in the Abilene area. The fault is not in focusing on a specific team, which is quite commonplace for films about American Football; instead, it’s the specific story and the way it’s told. Using bright visuals similar to a ‘’Made for TV’’ flick, it handles itself as a PG product with only mentions of the gang culture, drugs and violence prevalent in the script.
The tame representation of youth struggling through their teenage years in contact with both narcotics and violence forms more of a teen-drama narrative rather than a sports film. Throughout, it focuses on a small group of friends, all with their issues, an addicted father, gang-related brother and so on… Doing so, displaying a flaw in the way it tells the story. From the very introduction to the movie, all players are huddled up in the trainer’s room meeting their new coach; it then turns into a confessional type format. While the way of telling this story is not the issue, the background actors ruin most emotional moments. As the director and writers decided to focus on this bunch of players, the rest of the room is filled with aimless background actors who fail to even respond to whatever is in the script or what happens around them. From a classic filmmaking standpoint, the decisions are logical, but it’s more laziness than anything else in execution.
It might’ve been a better choice to name the film after the book ‘’Brother’s Keeper’’, as it has been in some regional releases. ‘’Under the Stadium Lights’’ ties itself closely to American sports culture, with religion being a big part of it; that’s why the name ‘’Brother’s Keeper’’ would’ve been more fitting. Religious tones are acceptable and understandable, but regrettably, here it comes over as extraordinarily preachy.
The young actors the film features feel quite rough around the edges, which is only worsened by the style the film decided to portray. Not only that but casting Laurence Fishburne despite his minor role overshadows the other actors in the film, highlighting their inexperience to no fault of his own.
With only some footage of actual American Football in between the drama between the individual players, it doesn’t manage to make itself into a sports film until the very end and to make things feel worse; the finale match sequence was actually quite well done.
I’ll stay away from the stadium lights for now.