Grown-Up Movies for Kids: Rudy

You probably realized by now that I like writing series, like Cocktails with the Cult and my Children’s Television Survival Guide. Today I am starting a new occasional series I am calling Grown-Up Movies for Kids. These are movies that when you tell your friends that your kid loves them, they’ll look at you like you are insane. Because, everyone seems to think that kids can only watch movies with cartoon characters in them or, I don’t know, they’ll be bored into a coma and die or something. Bullshit. My kids like plenty of non-cartoon movies, you just have to know the right ones.

Now, I am not talking about movies that are too mature for kids–no exploding skulls, no porno, not even soft core. I am not an idiot, Judgy McJudgerson. I am talking about movies that grown-ups think of as grown-up movies, but that kids may very much love as well. They may have some swear words in them, but in our house, we don’t treat swear words as taboo. We teach our kids when it’s appropriate to use them (in the privacy of your own home, when Grandma isn’t visiting) and when it’s not (“you will get sent to the principal’s office for using that word at school”). So, you may want to watch a few of these movies, like today’s selection, only on basic cable, where the swears have been edited out.

Alright, let’s dive into our first selection: Rudy, from 1993, starring Sean Astin. Astin plays Rudy Rutiger, an actual Notre Dame football player, and the film is loosely based on the real Rudy’s life. Rudy is a tiny man (there is a reason Astin was cast as a Hobbit) who loves football, specifically Notre Dame football, and wants more than anything to play for the Irish. Alas, he did horrible in high school (turns out he had an undiagnosed learning disability), so rather than continuing onto college after graduation, he goes to work at the steel mill with his dad and brothers.

His life is plodding along until his friend Pete does in a fire–you might want to fast forward through that part–and Rudy realizes life is short and you gotta live your dreams. So, he gets on a bus to North Bend and talks to a priest, who helps him enroll at the junior college. Rudy studies hard and exercises and gets a part time job so he can afford food, and after several attempts, he is able to transfer to Notre Dame. (That scene makes me weepy every time.) He walks onto the football team, although he’s tiny and hasn’t got much skill, because he has so much heart. And because of that heart, the coach lets him play in the last game of his senior year, and the other players carry him off the field at the end of the game (like, in a triumphant way, not in a spinal injury stretcher sort of way).

Rudy also features a very young pre-Swingers John Favreau and Vince Vaughn, and a post-Mystic Pizza Lili Taylor. Honestly? It’s a super cheesy movie, but in a good way, because it’s about hard work and determination paying off. It’s about things that aren’t easy being worth the effort. And, it’s about believing in yourself even when everyone else says something is impossible. Which are really good lessons for kids.

The Boy went though a stretch when he was about 4 where this was literally his favorite movie, like, over Cars or Shrek or whatever. He’s probably seen it 20 times. And, you can buy it online for like $5, since it’s so old.