‘GREATER’ Review: An appealing football biopic celebrates a promising life cut short

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Greater tells the true story of the Brandon Burlsworth (Chris Severio) who many sports historians consider to be perhaps the greatest walk-on success story in the annals of college football.

Burlsworth was a fat kid with no discernible athletic prowess who nonetheless dreamed of playing for the Division 1 University of Arkansas Razorbacks. Remarkably, he got his opportunity to show what he was made of (at that time approximately 50% body fat) via a walk-on tryout in which he was put on notice that he had virtually no chance of making the team. He displayed such saw determination that the team’s coach (Fredric Lehne of Chicago Fire) took him under his wing – put him on a diet and exercise program – and, helped him become a college football legend.

Through his journey he endured taunts from teammates who would grow to respect his ability and be inspired by his sensitive and kind spirit.

 

 

Greater stands out as a fine family film as it displays a family with problems – his father (Michael Parks) struggles with alcoholism – but it’s the faith and support of his mother (Leslie Easterbrook) that gives him much of the strength he needs to see things though.

The crux of the drama thought is his relationship with his older brother Marty (Neal McDonough) – who sincerely loves his brother but doesn’t believe in his dream until he sees it unfold before his eyes. How Marty deals with – and, ultimately, finds peace – following the horrible tragedy that ended his brother’s life is what the film is really all about. Nick Searcy (Justified) plays a mysterious stranger who seems oddly determined to lead Marty into despair.

The performances are all good and the direction by David Hunt – off a screenplay by himself and Brian Reindl – is understated and effective.

All in all, Greater (which contains some college drinking scenes and one use of the sh—word) is a movie that young teens and their parents can enjoy together

Greater, which is rated PB, opens in theaters this weekend (August 26).

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