“RUN THE RACE” — 2½ stars — Tanner Stine, Evan Hofer, Kristoffer Polaha, Kelsey Reinhardt; PG (thematic content and some teen partying); in general release; running time: 101 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — “Run the Race” has a good message, but critical flaws trip it up at the finish line.
Chris Dowling’s film follows the lives of two teenage brothers in small-town Florida. Zach Truett (Tanner Stine) is an up-and-coming football star, piling up multiple touchdowns every game and crossing his fingers that a college scout — preferably from the Florida Gators — is about to come knocking with a scholarship. David (Evan Hofer) matches his brother’s charm and bravado with quiet humility, training faithfully at Zach’s side but avoiding the field for medical reasons that eventually become clear during the film.
The boys have been on their own ever since their father, Michael (Kristoffer Polaha), abandoned them after their mother's death. Michael still tries to come around the house, but a mix of alcoholism and other demons makes him persona non grata.
All this has marked out another difference between the brothers: While David is faithful and churchgoing, Zach has let their predicament lead to bitterness and confusion. Things are further exacerbated when, just as Zach starts getting the recruitment attention he’s been hoping for, he gets into a fight at a party and tears up his knee.
The injury starts Zach on a path of spiritual reconciliation that acts as the core thread of “Run the Race’s” plot. Unfortunately, the machinations to get there are a bit cloudy.
During his recovery, Zach gets involved with a nursing intern named Ginger (Kelsey Reinhardt), whose devout Christian faith brings his own struggles into relief. In the meantime, David sets out to join the school’s track team, convinced that if he can recover enough of his athletic prowess, he might win the scholarship Zach hoped would deliver the boys from their small-town troubles.
The adults in the boys’ lives offer both support and challenges. Since their mother’s death, a family friend named Louise (Frances Fisher) has been the boys' guardian angel of sorts. Zach’s coach (Mykelti Williamson) provides counsel and guidance of a different variety. And their father ultimately proves to be critical to their spiritual path.
With redemptive themes of forgiveness, the value of family and the reconciliation of religious faith, the film has some powerful moments. At the same time, a scattered script that struggles under the weight of unconvincing character arcs and has a tendency to talk its way through important messages keeps the film from gelling properly.Comment on this story
One example: Zach’s torn ACL is supposed to be a traumatic moment that, at least at the time, should be threatening the boy’s entire future. But right away we see him flirting with Ginger at the hospital as if he’s there for a routine checkup, and “Run the Race” never gives us the full emotional weight of its story. Compare this to a similar situation in “Fighting With My Family,” another sports-related film released over the weekend. In that movie, when a key character has his dream shattered, we feel it. There's an unstated but clear threat that the disappointment could derail his entire existence.
These issues keep “Run the Race” from realizing its potential. The film sends a number of noble and poignant messages, but a better script and story would have helped them stick.
Rating explained: “Run the Race” is rated PG for some intense situations (mostly related to David’s medical issues).