The first couple of times I’d heard of Woodlawn, and even the first time I saw the trailer for it, I was not at all excited about seeing it. “Another football movie about a racially divided school?” I thought. “We’ve seen it all before.” In my mind, the best movie in this category would always be Remember the Titans. But, after Woodlawn was released I began to hear some positive feedback from critics and friends who had seen it. I decided it was worth seeing. Besides, it’s a Christian film, made by The Erwin Brothers. Their past films including October Baby and Mom’s Night Out have been very impressive. I’m a firm believer in spreading the gospel message through quality films, and these two film makers along with the Kendrick brothers are on the cutting edge, leading Christian film making to a whole new level of professionalism.
Sure, there were a few scenes in Woodlawn that were similar to other films, but those scenes were the minority. Woodlawn tells a very different story than I’ve seen portrayed before in film. It focuses more on individual lives that are transformed as they give their hearts and lives to Jesus Christ. The fruits of these changed lives are the driving force of this plot, much more than a winning season or blacks and whites learning to get along. The racial tensions are definitely the back drop of the story, but not the focus.
This is a true story that is fascinating on at least two levels. First, is a revival that sweeps through the Woodlawn team and beyond. Second, is the rise to stardom of real life running back sensation Tony Nathan. Now that I’ve seen Woodlawn, it has occurred to me that the title could easily have been The Tony Nathan story. That title would probably have made marketing a whole lot easier. But, the fact that it’s called Woodlawn shows clearly what is important to the Erwin Brothers. They chose to focus all the attention on the spiritual awakening at the school. That’s a powerful statement, and it fits this movie perfectly. The message of Woodlawn is that we can use our special gifts for God’s glory or for selfish gain. If we let God work through us we can do incredible things.
Woodlawn is a well made, movie with solid acting, a strong script, and it’s well directed. I saw none of the stiff acting that has come to characterize Christian movies in the past. Technically, this is a Christian movie because it was made by a Christian production company. But, it deserves to be noticed by a larger crowd. From now on, when I’m asked what’s my favorite high school sports team film, I’ll have two favorites to mention; Remember the Titans and Woodlawn.