I broke a vow last week and watched Rudy. It took me three days.
What follows is my walk through the shadow of death.
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Rudy begins with a pickup football game between five boys in a Midwestern mill town during a time when American factory smoke didn’t come from homeless people seeking refuge from the harsh realities of life.
The smallest boy, a young Daniel E. "Rudy" Ruettiger, is the only one wearing a helmet—a Notre Dame one, natch. The older boys designated him all-time center, but after Rudy protests and Todd quits to go to work (as a chimney sweep?), the young lad is thrust into the fires and allowed to rush the passer.
Frank, a (truly) fictional brother embodying all Rudy’s haters, brushes off the no-Mississippi bum rush and lobs a touchdown pass for the win.
Though the “spaz” got knocked down and got up again, this scene will have such an impact on Rudy’s adult life Sigmund Freud would make horny with a cigar if he were alive to see it.
Rudy’s high school football career ends with an “I’m gonna miss ya” from his coach and the respect of only one teammate, Creepy Pete, his childhood friend. Rudy’s academics weren’t much better. A man of the cloth wouldn’t even let him take a field trip to Notre Dame.
No, it’s the mill life for ol’ Rudy and Pete. The two celebrate Rudy’s 22nd birthday in the company cafeteria, where Pete gifts a Notre Dame jacket and a cupcake to a grown man.
To further drive home the waning hourglass of Rudy's young life, a former high school classmate reappears out of nowhere as Rudy’s fiancée. She does nothing but browbeat the cuckolded Rudy into buying a house.
After Pete and Frank get into a drunken kerfuffle at the local cantina over Rudy’s grit and heart, we know we’re at a breaking point. Is this the improbable tale of a scamp walking on to Notre Dame, or a gritty joint about has-beens and wannabes working out their failures with fists?
Pete, the only person to take Rudy seriously, bids adieu when he’s burned alive in an explosion caused in part by Rudy’s failure to get “water to the valve.”
Rudy watches his best friend die in front of his eyes but doesn't let the charred remains cool before he announces his next move: Breaking up with his hating-ass fiancée (and their mortgage) to chase his dream of walking on to Notre Dame’s football team.
PREDATORS PREY ON THE WEAK
Upon Rudy’s departure, his father can’t believe his son is leaving eternal employment and the good wages of an Illinois millworker to seek a college education. If you started the movie from here, you might think Rudy was bound for the jungles of Vietnam. Alas, Rudy takes a two-hour bus ride from Joliet to South Bend.
After bamboozling a kindly priest, Rudy gets into Holy Cross with the intention of transferring to Notre Dame.
He then trespasses onto Notre Dame's field, where he’s accosted by a groundskeeper disinterested in Rudy's dreams. He tells Rudy to take that trash to head coach Ara Parseghian.
Rudy takes this literally. Without ever previously stepping foot on Notre Dame's campus, Rudy knows exactly where to find Coach Parseghian. He struts into the office a national champion coach, blows past a secretary, and declares his intentions to play at Notre Dame.
For whatever reason, he's not arrested.
Rudy doesn’t stop there, either. After blowing his savings on tuition, he lives on the street (though his Notre Dame jacket, which he wears so much I'm led to believe he showers in it, remains as impeccable as his hair) before falling into the ulterior machinations of a celibate pimp named D-Bob.
D-Bob meets Rudy as a TA, and he agrees to help the struggling student with his studies... for a price.
As a registered non-sex haver, D-Bob is consumed by the desire for carnal knowledge of beautiful women. Instead of approaching them like humans, D-Bob enlists Rudy—the robot that left his fiancée for a chance to role play as a Notre Dame football player—as his sexual proxy.
Living as a transient turning tricks for an overbearing pimp with social anxiety somehow isn't a wakeup call for Rudy. He instead doubles down on his illusions of grandeur.
Rudy earns money with a minimum wage job (three shillings an hour) given to him by Fortune, the aforementioned stadium caretaker who takes Rudy under his wing despite him never working:
Insubordination and general dipshittery normally earns an unceremonious firing in the world of manual labor, but it's revealed later the Dickensian-named Fortune played for Notre Dame (before quitting), so he's forgiven for momentarily getting swept up in Rudy's frenzied psychosis.
While stalking women on behalf of D-Bob, Rudy meets Mary, who is gathering signatures for extracurricular club sign-ups. Mary divulges she belongs to the spirit squad, which paints the Notre Dame helmets before every game. Big mistake on her part.
After duping D-Bob into thinking Mary held interest in the disheveled nerd leaning against the distant wall like a strung-out burglar casing a mansion, Rudy shifts his focus to the prize. It's here the student manipulator becomes the master.
Like all women Rudy meets, Mary is nothing more than means to his end. He lies about his student status just to get a whiff of the freshly laid helmet paint.
It's real sick stuff, and thankfully Rudy gets drunk afterwards—the next day he can't afford a ticket—before confessing his non-student status at some shitheel South Bend bar.
The ploy doesn't work. Frankly, the last scene of the movie should've ended with Rudy—his house of cards tumbling before his eyes—destitute, dumbfounded and drunk in a dive bar.
That would have earned a hard C+.
Instead, Rudy heads home for break where his father refuses to pin his good grades to the Ruettiger refrigerator. Worse, his ex-fiancée walks into his family Christmas with his brother.
Rudy's fragile masculinity can't handle the thought of a woman he left possessing sexual agency, so he runs back to South Bend as if he's a child that scraped a knee.
Unfortunately, Rudy's comeuppance only comes in the form of three Notre Dame rejection letters. I say unfortunately because the fourth letter grants his dream in a hackneyed scene suffocated by muzak:
My God, there are 50 minutes left
Upon acceptance, Rudy instantly teleports back to Joliet intent on shoving his haters' faces in the dirt. His father and brother Frank are on the top of his hit list.
Rudy's dad does a literal 180 on his son's education upon seeing his son's acceptance.
Whereas he previously laughed at the notion of his son as a Notre Dame student and footballer, he exuberantly boasts about the lad's accomplishment over the mill's public address system. It's as if he'd been a fervent believer since Day 1.
Rudy's Notre Dame jacket, which he's been wearing for over three years, remains impeccable.
But the scrapper still needs to make the team, which by now seems to be his birthright. And make it he does, but not before a tryout scene in which Notre Dame's defensive coordinator—over muzak—tells perspective walk-ons their greatest contribution to the program is Notre Dame not caring if they get hurt. (A tradition that echoes through Brian Kelly's tenure.)
Rudy is more than willing to bludgeon his brain against his skull without the dignity of standing on the sidelines come game days. After conferring among defensive coaches, the 5'6" Ruettiger is drafted into defensive end duty.
Rudy is a boy amongst men yet somehow routinely frustrates more-talented players twice his size. He is also the center of attention.
Notre Dame players, who allegedly comprise one of the best teams in the country, are somehow threatened by 5'6" defensive end.
But Rudy takes bone-crunching hit after bone-crunching hit with a smile on his face and an ice pack on his shoulder.
His eagerness to die broke and homeless earns him the right to breeze into Coach Parseghian's office, which he does as a junior to request permission to dress for a game next season.
Let Rudy tell it, nobody back home believes a drunken 25-year-old's tales about playing football for the big college program in another state.
The affable Parseghian relents before going back to thinking up dirty tricks to teach his team. Rudy will dress for a game during his senior year, and the least suspenseful ending in American motion picture history may be afoot.
Alas, it's a false hope rally.
JUST WHEN RUDY HAS IT ALL
David Anspaugh, the director, won't give the sweet release of death just yet.
D-Bob stops by Rudy's new digs (it's unclear how Ruettiger pays tuition, room, and board with a minimum wage job while also playing football) to release him from bondage.
D-Bob slithered into Miami Law School, and oh hey by the way he's in love with the homely girl that repulsed him earlier because he realized she's his best shot at not dying alone.
Rudy is dismayed, but not at the prospect of losing his protectorate pimp. Coach Parseghian resigned, and for some reason, the M.V.P. of the team learned about it in the papers.
A lifelong Notre Dame fan, Rudy isn't worried how the championship coach leaving affects his beloved program. He worries how it pertains to Parseghian's promise to let him dress.
The Irish tap the Green Bay Packers' Dan Devine to replace Parseghian. While the film presents Parseghian as a fatherly figure, Devine is presented as a cold and distant.
Rudy stays on his grind—even going out of his way to make sure Mary, who is conveniently chatting with girlfriends on the sidelines of practice one day, knows he made the team.
But just being apart of the team no longer gets Rudy high. He craves the rush of running out of the tunnel in full regalia.
It's not until the final game against Georgia Tech that Rudy realizes his dream is slipping away. After spending the previous week crying while listening to the radio broadcast of Notre Dame's victory over Penn State (like a diehard), he fails to make the dress list for his final home game.
Faced with indignity, he quits the team.
Shortly thereafter, Rudy shows his motives to a bewildered Fortune in the only scene of cinematic value.
This isn't about Notre Dame football. This isn't about running out of some stupid tunnel. This is about the people that said Rudy couldn't do it.
In his mind, Rudy is still the "spaz" sprawled at the feet of his haters. He burns with righteous indignity of a 5'6" man trying to play defensive end at the D-1 level.
The anger would've consumed Captain Ahab if Fortune were not there to right the ship.
The football team gives the quitter a rousing ovation when he walks back into practice like he got his ankle taped. (Devine brushes off a tempestuous, no-talent walk-on interrupting his practice with a "What the hell's happening down there?")
It's tripe, and right when Rudy collapses under its own weight, its death throes conjure a haymaker of hellacious stupidity:
This is a scene worthy of the Hallmark channel, and I mean that in the worst way possible.
Naturally, Devine relents to the budding mutiny of teenagers. He allows Rudy to pretend he's a top-60 player for Notre Dame.
NOTRE DAME Vs. GEORGIA TECH
"This is the most beautiful sight these eyes have ever seen," Rudy's dad says in front of his son upon their entering of Notre Dame's decrepit stadium.
It's not surprising. This man couldn't bother with a two-hour trek to Notre Dame to parent his homeless son until Rudy guaranteed he'd be in uniform.
But now he's here, beaming with pride. And why wouldn't he be? Notre Dame Stadium is Valhalla for fossils.
On the other hand, poor Frank looks to be plotting the mill meltdown that will rid himself of his father once and and for all.
I can't blame him, but this is Rudy's moment... and it comes well after the game's been decided.
Where does Rudy, whose life focus was running out of a tunnel, go after this? How does a walk-on deal with sudden fame? Does he drop the sophomoric "me against the world" routine?
These questions are left unanswered. Rudy doesn't even thank the guys who risked their collegiate careers to allow him the chance to play out his childhood fantasies.
The writers, like robbers who put no thought into laundering their loot, have no idea what to do with their protagonist when he returns to Earth, so they end the charade.
“Two Thumbs Up!”– CRUNK EBERT & CRUNKER SISKEL
Rudy is a trundling ball of cliché bullshit with an uninteresting, one-dimensional lead character and supporting characters only deep enough to coddle the runt across the finish line.
It moves like glue dripping through a PVC pipe lodged in your throat. It takes itself more seriously than a 29-year-old blogger writing a 10,000-word diatribe against a 22-year-old movie.
Anybody who's seen a movie can project the end within the first 10 minutes. There is no suspense. Yet we are dragged through K-Mart's clearance isle anyway, kicking and screaming.
BASED ON A TRUE STORY?
“I’ve seen this movie before,” I said to my three majestic cats as Rudy bawled off my screen. And indeed I had.
Rookie of the Year, a 1993 classic released 107 days before Rudy, is a tale about a boy who breaks his arm, gains miraculous strength during the recovery, and signs a pitching contract with the Chicago Cubs.
It ends with the suddenly powerless #tween striking out a steroid era slugger with a softball pitch to win the pennant.
Not only is it a better movie, but if the two were weighed by any non-Irish fan, they’d agree Rookie of the Year is the one with an aura of verisimilitude.
Upon simple inspection, the penultimate scenes of Rudy are built on a thrones of lies.
That scene where Notre Dame players lined up outside Dan Devine's before filing in one by one, laying their jerseys on his desk, and demanding that Rudy "take their spot"?
The way Rudy is carried off the field you would think doctors predicated a brain tumor due to reap his life within the next 48 hours. Extrapolate that moment to real life, and Rudy's heroic send-off reeks of a cruel inside joke.
That was the case:
RUDY FUDGED DETAILS TO SELL TICKETS. SO WHAT?
There are two Rudy defenders: Notre Dame fans and children. The thing these two groups have in common is a love of fairy tales.
Children, as we know, would literally eat bull's shit if you let them. Show them Rudy and they might cry. Kids are fragile, which is why they relate to Ruettiger.
Notre Dame fans are stunted bushes cloying to life near the top of some ancient mountain peak. Their palate for bullshit is refined.
While coloring books entertain kids, Notre Dame fans prefer black and white pictures, the purple prose of Grantland Rice, and meandering bullshit from Knute Rockne, like this speech Irish fans consider to be the Peruvian flake of motivation:
We're going inside of ‘em, we're going outside of ‘em -- inside of ‘em! outside of ‘em! -- and when we get them on the run once, we're going to keep ‘em on the run. And we're not going to pass unless their secondary comes up too close. But don't forget, men -- we're gonna get ‘em on the run, we're gonna go, go, go, go! -- and we aren't going to stop until we go over that goal line! And don't forget, men -- today is the day we're gonna win. They can't lick us -- and that's how it goes... The first platoon men -- go in there and fight, fight, fight, fight, fight! What do you say, men!
Inside! Outside! Run! Pass! Go! Fight!
Inspirational stuff if this were Airbud: Golden Receiver.
There are worse ways to leave this mortal coil than mainlining propaganda until the eyes pop out of your skull. But what happens if a young man takes Rudy's lessons into real life?
For that we turn to Daniel E. "Rudy" Ruettiger, the try-hard sensation behind the 1993 film, Rudy.
After losing [all proceeds from the movie], Ruettiger says he was approached with the idea of promoting a sports drink that would be branded “Rudy.” He thought it could become the next Vitamin Water, which sold to Coca-Cola for $4.1 billion back in 1997. “That’s ‘billion’— with a ‘B’,” Ruettiger writes. When things didn’t work out, however, Ruettiger says he kept thinking of the “easy-street life of living off of those beverage profits” and decided to reverse merger his company into the stock market. “I will spare you the finer details of what happened,” he writes. “But the Securities and Exchange Commission (the S.E.C.) eventually came knocking.”
Look how he acts like interaction with federal law enforcement is an everyday thing.
Even as a grown man, Rudy cannot rid himself of delusions of grandeur. After spindling his life into a Hollywood blockbuster, making billions of dollars off a shady self-branded energy drink probably seemed like a layup.
Of course we can't trust Rudy Ruettiger for the truth on Rudy Ruettiger.
From the latimes.com in 2012:
A Long Beach man faces up to five years in federal prison after admitting his role Tuesday in orchestrating a "pump-and-dump stock scheme" around a sports drink company built around the name of Notre Dame football legend Daniel E. “Rudy” Ruettiger.
Chad Peter Smanjak, 38, appeared at the U.S. District Court in Santa Ana and pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit securities fraud. The plea deal requires Smanjak to pay full restitution to the more than 250 victims of the scheme, which prosecutors alleged generated a profit of more than $5 million. Money-laundering transactions also netted more than $1 million.
Ruettiger agreed to pay federal regulators $382,866 to settle claims that he and 12 others crafted the stock scheme related to the now-defunct sports drink company. He did not admit or deny the allegations.
Broke and lonely, Ruettiger fell back on his one tried and true skill: Fraud.
A fitting end for a man that apparently spent adulthood huffing his own bullshit. But we don't need to watch Rudy to know this.
TL;DR MARIONAIRE GRADE: TRASH