DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main


Jon and Andrew Erwin
Sean Astin, Nic Bishop, Caleb Castille, Shari Shepherd, Jon Voight
Writing Credits:
Quinton Peeples and Jon Erwin

A gifted high school football player must learn to embrace his talent and his faith as he battles racial tensions on and off the field.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$4,002,226 on 1,553 Screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated PG.

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 123 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 1/19/2016

• Audio Commentary with Directors Andrew Ervin and Jon Erwin and Producer Kevin Downes
• Deleted Scenes
• “The True Story of Woodlawn” Featurette
• “Behind the Scenes” Featurette
• Production Diaries
• Trailers
• Previews


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Woodlawn [Blu-Ray] (2015)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 19, 2016)

In the same vein as 2000’s Remember the Titans, 2015’s Woodlawn offers a tale that mixes football and civil rights. However, in this case, those topics become mixed with a large helping of religion as well.

The film takes us to Birmingham, Alabama circa 1973. Along with other African-Americans, teenager Tony Nathan (Caleb Castille) gets bused to Woodlawn High School, where he encounters great animosity. That’s because Birmingham resists integration, so Tony’s presence at Woodlawn doesn’t come with a warm reception. Indeed, violence and riots break out around the town due to all the racial tension.

Even the football team bristles against integration, so Woodlawn football coach Tandy Gerelds (Nic Bishop) seeks to ease the strain. He gets Hank Erwin (Sean Astin), a sports chaplain to speak to the team. We see the impact of his work and how Tony, Coach Gerelds and the team develop.

No one will mistake me for an especially religious person – I respect those views but don’t share the passion. That puts me in a position where I don’t necessarily fall into the “target audience” for a project like Woodlawn, as it comes from a clear Christian point of view.

That said, I think good movies are good movies, target audiences be damned. That goes for flicks aimed at kids, teens, men, women, various ethnicities – you name it. A well-made film should transcend “target audience” and work on its own merits.

Given its subject matter, I thought Woodlawn seemed more likely to offer a universal experience than some of its peers. It may offer a football tale related to Christianity, but the story of civil rights and the gridiron seemed like one that could succeed even for those of us who didn’t necessarily share its belief-based passion.

This doesn’t become the case, however, because Woodlawn emphasizes its religious message to stifling degree. In the movie’s view, none of the story’s positive developments occur due to hard work or understanding – they’re because of Jesus.

I get that this fits the perspective of many prospective viewers, but I think this attitude shortchanges the characters and situations. Right off the bat, the filmmakers tell us that what we’re about to see had to be a “miracle”, and more messages of that sort ensue.

Look, I don’t insist that Woodlawn take a purely secular perspective – I just think it could involve its religious orientation in a more natural, less clunky manner. The movie tends to grind to a halt so it can divert into religion, and this doesn’t work from a cinematic point of view.

Instead, it means Woodlawn feels like a collection of sermons occasionally punctuated with a few character moments and some football. Woodlawn throws a few bones toward secular conceits, but mostly it exists to show how Jesus saved Birmingham. I think the movie’s basic story could be interesting, but Woodlawn comes with so little subtlety or nuance that it sinks.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C+/ Bonus B-

Woodlawn appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie offered surprisingly erratic visuals.

Sharpness became the primary concern. While much of the movie displayed good clarity, more than a few shots looked oddly soft and fuzzy. These didn’t dominate, but they showed up more frequently than expected. No signs of jaggies or moiré effects emerged, and I saw no edge haloes or printflaws.

As I expect from a period film, Woodlawn opted for a fairly amber palette. More dramatic scenes used some teal as well, and the colors came across in a concise manner. Blacks were dark and deep, and low-light shots showed reasonable clarity. This was never a bad image, but it seemed lackluster.

To my surprise, Woodlawn came with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. That’s right: a 2016 Blu-ray from a major Hollywood studio offered no lossless option. If I looked hard, I could find another Blu-ray from the last few years that lacked lossless, but probably not from an organization as big as Universal.

The presence of lossy audio cost the mix some points right off the bat, but otherwise, the mix seemed acceptable. The soundscape opened up matters nicely enough when necessary, though the elements didn’t blend terribly well. For instance, the football scenes tended to come with rather “speaker-specific” material and didn’t feel wholly natural.

Still, they added a bit of life – at least in the front. Surround usage remained fairly subdued, so don’t expect much from the back speakers. They occasionally kicked to life, but most of the information stayed in the forward channels.

Audio quality was good, though the elements would’ve sounded better if they’d been lossless. Speech was fairly concise and natural, and effects showed reasonable delineation and pep. Music also showed fair warmth and range. This wasn’t a bad track, but the combination of lossy audio and a lackluster soundscape left it as a “C+”.

When we head to the set’s extras, we launch with an audio commentary from directors Andrew Erwin and Jon Erwin and producer Kevin Downes. All three sit together for a running, screen-specific chat about the film's roots and development, story/character areas, cast and performances, music, themes and goals, shooting the football scenes, locations, and connected domains.

The Erwin brothers and Downes combine for a chatty and informative commentary. They cover a nice array of topics and do so in an earnest, engaging manner. The track gives us a solid overview of various production domains.

10 Deleted Scenes fill a total of 15 minutes, 47 seconds. These generally offer minor character moments. They add a little but not much, so don’t expect anything of substance.

The clips offer short intros from Andrew Erwin. He gives us minor thoughts about the scenes and why they didn’t make the cut.

Some featurettes follow. The True Story of Woodlawn lasts 16 minutes and includes comments from former athletes Tony Nathan and Reginald Greene, Nathan’s wife Johnnie, coach’s son Todd Gerelds and wife Debbie Gerelds, Woodlawn assistant coach Jerry Stearns, team chaplain Hank Erwin, evangelist Wade Goebels, Nathan’s sister Diane Johnson, and Nathan’s parents William and Louise. We learn a little about the real-life experiences featured in the movie. It’s good to see the actual participants and we find a few interesting memories, but much of the featurette just preaches at us.

Next comes Behind the Scenes. It includes 10 short pieces that go for a total of 25 minutes, 23 seconds. In these, we hear from Downes, Jon and Andrew Erwin, football coordinator Mark Ellis, and actors Jon Voight, Caleb Castille, Nic Bishop, Sean Astin, Lance Nichols, and Sherri Shepherd. The pieces look at cast and characters, shooting the football scenes, and locations. These are short promotional clips that include a few decent notes but mostly exist to sell the movie. The “proof of concept” reel – a quick “test trailer” – becomes the most interesting addition.

We also get eight Production Diaries. These take up a total of 20 minutes, 42 seconds and mostly give us glimpses of various aspects of the shoot; we also find Mike Huckabee’s memories of “the Jesus Movement”. That segment feels like literal preaching to the choir, but the views of the shoot offer decent material.

The disc opens with ads for God’s Not Dead 2, My All-American, Faith of Our Fathers, Old Fashioned and 90 Minutes in Heaven. We also get a promo for Do You Believe? as well as three trailers for Woodlawn.

A second disc provides a DVD copy of Woodlawn. It includes the commentary as well as two deleted scenes, “True Story”, “Behind the Scenes” and some of the previews.

Rather than concentrate on its civil rights areas, Woodlawn casts its material in a religious light. That makes the movie heavy-handed and without the depth it needs, so the experience becomes sappy, one-dimensional and patronizing. The Blu-ray comes with mediocre picture and audio as well as a decent set of supplements. Perhaps Christians will enjoy the movie due to its religious orientation, but it seems like a tough sell for others.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.3333 Stars Number of Votes: 3
0 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main