Forever Strong

September 26th, 2008


Forever Strong

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Forever StrongPenn Badgley in Forever StrongSean Faris in Forever StrongSean Faris in Forever StrongArielle Kebbel in Forever StrongNeal McDonough

A rugby player is put up in a juvenile detention center. There he plays for the Highland Rugby team and ultimately plays against his father in the National Championships.

Release Year: 2008

Rating: 6.9/10 (3,418 voted)

Critic's Score: 37/100

Director: Ryan Little

Stars: Sean Faris, Penn Badgley, Gary Cole

Rick Penning, the 17-year-old star player on his coach/father's rugby team, lands inside the Wasatch County Juvenile Detention Center following his second drunk driving conviction (and where his father leaves him to rot). Mistrust and dislike of the situation makes Rick anything but a model prisoner, but counselors at the center nonetheless hook him up with the Highland Rugby Team, a team renowned for its long string of successive state championships. Its coach, Larry Gelwix, has a surprisingly unexpected philosophy: train boys to be champions in life first, then on the field. Rick doesn't buy into this, which could earn him some time in State Prison if he doesn't turn his life and attitude around by the time he turns 18.

Gary Cole - Coach Larry Gelwix
Sean Astin - Marcus Tate
Neal McDonough - Coach Richard Penning
Sean Faris - Rick Penning
Julie Warner - Natalie Penning
Penn Badgley - Lars
Eliot Benjamin - Marty
Michael J. Pagan - Kurt
Nathan West - Quentin
Max Kasch - Griggs
Arielle Kebbel - Emily
Kepa Kruse - Tumo (as John Kepa Kruse)
Junior Salt - Peeta
Jeremy Earl - Sanchez
Larry Bagby - Coach Cal

Taglines: The Greatest Victories are Born in the Heart


Official Website: Official Movie Site |

Release Date: 26 September 2008

Filming Locations: Granite High School - 3305 S 500 E, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

Gross: $630,649 (USA) (2 November 2008)

Did You Know?

Sean Faris sprained his ankle during the shooting.

Factual errors: Rugby Football Union matches are played in two halves of 40 minutes. On numerous occasions the scoreboard shows half time or full time ending at 60 minutes.

Coach Richard Penning: [after asking Rick to behave unethically] This is our year. We deserve that title.
Rick Penning: What do you mean "we?" My team is Highland.
Coach Richard Penning: Okay, you see, you don't get to choose. You will leave this house or not, if we say. You will drive that car or not, if we say. You will go to Colorado or not, if I say, and right now I say that you will be at practice with your Razorbacks tomorrow. Rick, sit down.
Rick Penning: Have me arrested.

User Review

Here's the deal

Rating: 7/10

As a former Highland Rugby(HR) player, I feel like I can possibly answer some of the questions and confusion that has been put forward. I think that I am also in a position to offer some insight into the club and back stories. Oh, and this is gonna be a long post, I can tell already.

First off, the people who said that the movie doesn't show real rugby, have a valid point. The movie is full of bad tackles, people in the wrong places, and much much more. If you want to know what a real rugby game feels like, you won't get the best idea from this movie. But the thing is, anything short of actually sitting down and watching a highlight reel or jumping into a game yourself, is not going to be satisfactory. It's Hollywood, not ESPN! Really, how many sports movies really make you feel like you are in the game? Not many that I have seen. I think it's important to keep in mind that the movie is about rugby players, much more than it is about rugby.

Next, the Haka is VERY much a part of Highland Rugby. It is not something that they just threw into the movie. To be honest, I don't know how the tradition got started, but Highland emulates the All Blacks in many ways. The uniform is based off of the All Blacks as well. The movie did not do a good job of explaining the origins of the Haka, and to be honest, I don't think that that is right. But I can tell you that every member of the team knows exactly where it comes from and what it means. As for the person from China(?) who said that only a Maori can perform a Haka, I would suggest that they take a look at the All Blacks and tell me if they think that they are all Maori. Believe it or not, Utah has a very large Polynesian community, and a good portion of them like and play rugby for the local teams. I, myself am part Hawaiian. Whenever possible, the Haka is led by a Maori. The team does not do it because they think that they are Maori, they do it because of some of the issues shown in the movie. The concept of unity and "those who have gone before" is a huge part of the HR culture, and the message behind the Haka, for any of those that are familiar with it, support those values. It's a chant by a chief who thought he would die (Ka Mate), and those around him supporting him telling him he will live (Ka Ora) and boosting him up. How appropriate it is for a bunch of white boys to do it is not for me to say, but that is the ideology behind it and why it is done. "Kia Kaha" is also a well used team motto, even if the actors had a hard time saying it.

Also, for the people who questioned Highland's Rugby playing ability, I would just remind you that you were not really watching Highland play in this movie. Many of the extras were former players from Highland and other teams, but the main characters were all actors. Believe it or not, Highland really is pretty good at what they do and pretty well respected in the international community. Granted, some years produce better teams than others (it's what you would expect with any sports team), but you don't accumulate HR's win record by just being okay. The year after I graduated, (1998) Highland was one of 12 teams to be invited to the World Schools Rugby Championship in Zimbabwe. The teams were hand picked from around the world and represented the best of High school rugby talent at the time. Highland obviously didn't win first place, (New Zealand did that), but they did manage to take third place in the tournament, beating the Tongan national champions in their last match. And while American rugby may never reach the level of talent that New Zealand or South Africa has, third in the world is also nothing to hang your head about. Highland also has a tradition of touring New Zealand every few years, and usually comes back with more wins than losses.

The majority of characters portrayed in this movie are based off of real people and real stories. I watched this movie with my brothers, who also played for Highland, and between the four of us, we were fairly certain that we were able to identify ALMOST every main character. Nobody knew a white Rasta. Of course as this wasn't a documentary, Hollywood did take some liberties, but to tell you the truth, not as many as you might think. The film was actually pretty accurate in showing the 2 and a half hour daily practices, as well as the mandatory personal running and weight training. Sometimes it really was running until you threw up. It also showed the service and other team activities (like the chuck-a-rama buffet) that were very much a part of team bonding.

And finally the movie, in my (obviously very biased) opinion, it was a pretty good movie. And I think that the reason for it is that I watched it as an inspirational sports movie. I didn't think that it would be a pure rugby movie or an academy award winning drama. It was just an uplifting movie about a rugby team, complete with morals, encouragement, and a good dose of jokes thrown in for entertainment. I hope that I addressed some of the problems that people have had with the movie, and hope that you can now enjoy it for what it was.

Kia Kaha


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