The buzz started last summer when it was revealed that Heisman Trophy winner, former NFL quarterback, professional baseball player, and best-selling author Tim Tebow would add movie making to his ever-burgeoning resume. Along with brother Robby Tebow, the brothers had signed on to executive produce a new faith-based film called Run the Race.
While it is certainly significant when a well-known figure dabbles in an area that is not traditionally his or her own, it is easy for the narrative to become more about the person than the project. While this has certainly been evident at times for Run the Race, in the end solid filmmaking wins the day.
With high school football serving as the backdrop, in Run the Race, two determined teenage brothers craft a plan to leave their hometown behind for something better. To be clear, this is not a movie about the Tebows. Beyond two brothers who love football, the similarities stop there.
Directed by Chris Dowling (Where Hope Grows), the movie stars Tanner Stine (NCIS), Evan Hofer (Kickin’ It), Kelsey Reinhardt (Transparent), and a group of Hollywood veterans including Frances Fisher (Titanic, Unforgiven), Mario Van Peebles (Ali, Superstition), and Mykelti Williamson (Fences, Forrest Gump).
THE MOVIE IN A MINUTE
Two teenage brothers find themselves facing some incredibly difficult life-altering circumstances. Dave (Hofer) and Zach (Stine) are desperate for better days to overcome their mother’s death and father’s alcohol-infused abandonment. They plan to do so through football. With a ‘guaranteed’ athletic scholarship beckoning for younger brother Zach, their dream comes to an abrupt halt when he seriously injures his knee.
With Zach nursing his injury and a seriously bruised ego, Dave, a former athlete, joins the track team. His goals are two-fold: to earn an athletic scholarship in his own right, but more importantly to restore his brother’s hope.
Facing unbelievable odds, the brothers forge an unbreakable bond despite their circumstances to find a better way, one that ultimately drives them into the arms of God.
THE GOOD AND BAD OF RUN THE RACE
Fourteen years from the script's origin to the film's release, screenwriter Jake McEntire’s story of faith, hope, and forgiveness addresses some very difficult questions for which there are no easy answers. Fortunately, Run the Race sufficiently delivers upon the theme that even in your lowest of lows God loves you. He wants to know and support you.
Hofer (David) and Stine (Zach) do a commendable job as the two brothers struggling to make peace with their estranged father and with God. Their chemistry is real and helps guide them through the peaks and valleys of their less than promising plight. Much of their onscreen synergy can be attributed to Dowling’s astute decision to have Hofer and Stine be roommates during Run the Race’s six weeks of production.
Despite Hofer not quite looking the part as a track athlete, Run the Race more than makes up for it through its football sequences. Filmed in conjunction with actual games at an Alabama high school and the University of Florida, Stine, a former Iowa high school gridiron star, is a natural in full pads and helmet. Credit the Tebows for the movie’s athletic authenticity as Robby Tebow also served as the on set football production coordinator.
Where Run the Race sometimes struggles is with logistics. While Dowling and McEntire have done a fantastic job delivering dialogue that is sharp and realistic, there are a few scenes that will leave viewers scratching their heads. For example, a football player recovering from a torn ACL back to competing in athletics at a high level in less than six months. This type of injury normally takes at least a year to go through the recovery and rehabilitation process. Furthermore, while the film is set in a small southern town the probability of a high school track meet being broadcast on the radio is rare at best.
Run the Race features a plot twist toward the end of the film that is completely unexpected yet utterly thought provoking. Dowling should be applauded for his willingness to challenge audiences on situations that are not planned but require a great deal of faith to overcome.
IN THE END
Unlike many faith-based films that have come before it, Run the Race is unabashedly unafraid to deliver a message of trusting God in the midst of all circumstances, not just some. The movie effectively illustrates that life will never be perfect or easy, just worth it. Finally, this is a solid first foray into the movie industry for the Tebows. It will be interesting to see what their next project will be.
P.S. Speaking of the Tebows, be sure to stay through the end of the closing credits!