Sean Astin and Ned Beatty in RUDY (1993) on getTV

Rudy

“After high school I’m going to play football at Notre Dame,” 13-year-old Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger (Luke Massery) tells his working-class father (Ned Beatty) in the late 1960s. He laughs, because Rudy is small in stature. But he’s big in heart, and it’s this quest to prove himself that drives the young man for the next decade. 

 Does he make good on his promise? We won’t spoil it, but you can find out for yourself when the award-winning film based on the real Rudy Ruettiger’s inspiring life story comes to getTV this month! Rudy airs Sunday, June 2 at 5p ET. 

 Instead of going on to college after high school, Rudy (played as a young adult by Sean Astin) becomes a laborer in the Joliet, Indiana steel mill where his father and older brothers work. But when tragedy strikes, Rudy decides the time has come to give his dream a shot. He heads to South Bend, Indiana, where he enrolls in a neighboring junior college and begins working at the Fighting Irish’s stadium as a groundskeeper. He’s finally accepted as a student at Notre Dame on his fourth try, but making the football team will be much harder than he ever imagined. 

 Rudy has been named to numerous “Best Sports Movies” lists since its release a quarter of a century ago, and with good reason. But the film’s enduring appeal — it’s recently been re-released for 25thanniversary screenings with a live orchestra playing Jerry Goldsmith’s iconic score — goes far beyond the game of football. Like Rocky (1976), Rudy is a fundamentally American story: that success is attainable by anyone who works hard enough, even the scrappy little guy from the wrong side of the tracks. It’s a tale of personal empowerment and second chances, and a snapshot of a country in transition half a century ago. Ruettiger — one of 14 kids in an Irish Catholic family — was the first of his siblings to attend college, and his five younger brothers followed his path to higher education. 

 Also like RockyRudy is carried by a career-making performance by a non-traditional leading man. Astin (the son of actress Patty Duke) had been a familiar face since his early teens in movies like The Goonies (1985), but Rudy was his first real leading role in a feature film. The five-foot-seven-inch star pulls it off with grace, making even predictable story points fresh and believable with his old-fashioned earnestness. And this is a key point about Rudy: it’s a contemporary film that has the soul and spirit of a classic movie. With its period setting, emphasis on faith and prayer, and almost complete lack of cynicism, Rudy has many of the hallmarks of an earlier era in American filmmaking. It could just as easily have been made in 1940 with Mickey Rooney as Rudy and Judy Garland as his small-town girlfriend.  

 Like a classic Hollywood film, Rudy is also filled with strong supporting players who leave memorable impressions, even in small roles. Charles S. Dutton is unforgettable as Fortune, the groundskeeper who gives Rudy a helping hand. In his first featured role, Jon Favreau shines as the shy friend Rudy plays Cyano for, in return for tutoring. Rudy is also Vince Vaughn’s first film and includes appearances by Lili Taylor as the girl Rudy leaves behind, Robert Prosky as a priest who puts him on the path to Notre Dame, and Chelcie Ross as Notre Dame coach Dan Devine. Best of all is Beatty, who can convey more with a silent expression than other actors can with pages of dialogue. Classic film fans may enjoy thinking about who they would cast in these key roles if the film had been made forty years earlier. (Spencer Tracy as the dad! Rex Ingram as Fortune! Pat O’Brien as the priest!) 

 Speaking of Pat O’Brien,Rudy was the first movie since his Knute Rockne, All American (1940) to be shot on the campus of the University of Notre Dame, and the screenplay by Angelo Pizzo (Hoosiers) makes deft use of this authenticity. But fair warning: director David Anspaugh (who also directed Hoosiersand won an Emmy for Hill Street Blues) knows how to make you cry. And, thanks to Goldmith’s tear-jerking score, you may cry a lot while watching Rudy. But they will be tears of joy. 

 Rudy airs Sunday, June 2 at 5p ET on getTV. For more, visit the getTV schedule

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