Review by Sean Boelman
From filmmaker Miranda de Pencier, The Grizzlies is an uplifting new sports drama packed with heart and emotion. And even though the script is heavily based around conventions of the genre, the movie takes an interesting enough perspective that it manages to be thoroughly moving.
Based on a true story, the film follows a well-meaning teacher in Canada who inspires his discouraged students to become better students by introducing them to the sport of lacrosse. At its core, the story is a relatively standard underdog arc, but the subplots are well-developed enough to give the film a fresh and unique angle.
The main subplot of the movie involves mental health and the fact that the town in which the film takes place has one of the highest suicide rates in all of North America. It isn’t often that a movie explores tough-hitting subject matter like this in a way that is both insightful and feels like an entirely natural part of the storyline.
It does take a solid amount of time for the film to get moving as the inciting incident doesn’t come until about twenty minutes in, but after that point, the movie becomes much more entertaining. The alternatingly somber and inspirational tone might be jarring for some, but it works given the weighty themes of the film.
One area in which the movie could’ve used some additional work is its character development. While the protagonist, the teacher, is certainly very compelling, it would’ve been nice to spend more time with his students on an individual level. The group dynamic is great, but individually, they all feel disappointingly archetypal.
Ben Schnetzer plays the film’s lead, and he’s very charismatic in the role. Although he won’t quite join the ranks of great movie mentors, he's surprisingly well-fit for the role. In the supporting cast, highlights include Booboo Stewart, Ricky Marty-Pahtaykan, and Will Sasso, although they aren’t all fully used.
On a technical level, the movie is mostly fine if unspectacular. The sports sequences are undoubtedly the most exciting portion of the film, with some solid cinematography. However, as a whole, the movie feels rather muted and grey. For the most part, the strengths of this film lie more in its script than its execution
The Grizzlies is an underdog story, but thankfully, the subplots keep it from being an entirely conventional one. It’s a crowd-pleasing movie that also has plenty of sincerity and substance, which is a welcome change in an overstuffed genre.
The Grizzlies is now available on VOD.