As far as uplifting sports movies go, Gracie might just be the oddest of the bunch. Set in the ‘70s, the film is based on actress Elisabeth Shue’s teenage years, is directed by her husband, Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth), who also cowrote the film’s story with Shue’s brother, Andrew (TV’s Melrose Place), who in turn has a supporting role in the film. (Why Elisabeth just didn’t write the movie herself is beyond me.)
That Gracie is a family affair is all fine and dandy, but where this really gets bizarre—aside from the fact that you know the real-life “Gracie” grew up to star in Hollow Man in 2000—is when you find out that Elisabeth is playing her own mother. This enters the realm of awkward peculiarity when Elisabeth, as her mom, praises her on-screen daughter, who in actuality is based on herself, for how courageous she is, in addition to giving an epilogue thanking “brave girls like Gracie” for their help in opening up sports for women. This strangeness doesn’t cripple the film; instead it makes it a slightly more interesting oddity than most films of this ilk. What does cripple the film, however, is the fact that it remains just another in a very long line of sports movies determined to improve the viewer’s life via vicarious uplift.
The movie follows Gracie (Carly Schroeder, Firewall), who decides to try out for her high school men’s soccer team after the death of her brother (Christopher Shand, A Very Brady Sequel) in a car wreck. The only problem is that her father (Dermot Mulroney) refuses to help her train, so instead Gracie takes the path of the troubled teen (as far as a PG-13 rating will allow), which means sneaking into discos and getting really close to smoking cigarettes. It’s not until she steals the family station wagon that Dad realizes Gracie is going downhill, and decides to give in to her soccer ambitions. (So remember, kids, boost the family car and you’ll get what you want.)
From there, the film becomes a primer on the ins and outs of making a sports flick. From the overcoming of odds, to the underdogs miraculously winning the big game, to the schmaltzy, swelling score that permeates the film in between bursts of classic rock—it’s all there in spades. There’s even a rousing, emotional speech made at a school board meeting by Gracie’s mother thrown in for good measure (though I’m personally disappointed that the decrepit, senile grandfather didn’t pull himself together to somehow inspire Gracie). There’s absolutely nothing in the movie that you can’t see coming from reels away, let alone anything that is new or fresh.
Guggenheim’s direction is adequate, but much of the film’s pacing seems clunky, and a lot of the characters’ emotions feel phony. He does manage to throw in a few stylistic flourishes here and there, and the soccer is handled well enough, but the rest of the film makes it obvious that Guggenheim has made his career directing television shows and filming Al Gore do PowerPoint presentations. And this adequacy is probably the films biggest flaw since the whole movie is, well, simply adequate. Gracie is not a bad movie, but it’s also not a very entertaining, interesting or involving one. Rated PG-13 for brief sexual content.