“Hometown Legend” takes place in the small town of Athens, Alabama, where the only thing more important than mom, apple pie, and God is football. After a star football player, and the team’s coach’s son, dies during a game, the town of Athens loses its luster. Twelve years later, the town is going downhill fast, and the only thing bringing in newcomers is an annual scholarship to the state college given to one member of the football team in memory of the dead football player.
The promise of the scholarship draws all manner of outsiders to town, including Elvis Jackson (Nick Cornish), a hotshot football player and orphan with dreams of finally making something of himself. Just in time for Elvis’ arrival is the celebrated return of legendary football coach Buster Schuler (Terry O’Quinn), who had quit 12 years ago after his son’s death. Now determined to give the town one last swan song, Schuler attempts to mold Elvis and the rest of the town’s rag tag team into a formidable force. Of course Schuler’s job might be a lot easier if the players weren’t always trying to kill each other.
“Hometown Legend” looks like it has a decent budget, and the film has the feel of a Christian movie. Which isn’t to say “Legend” is a preachy film, because it’s not. If anything, it’s a Sports Movie through and through, complete with all the usual conventions, including: the coach looking for redemption for a past sin, the star football player who can’t get along with anyone because he can’t learn to trust himself, and the antagonistic football player that our hero attempts to replace. Although “Legend” offers up a bit of a shocker in its closing Big Game, anyone who has seen any number of Sports Movie will be able to guess where most of “Legend” is going before it even gets there.
Lacey Chabert, formerly of TV’s “Party of Five”, co-stars as Rachel Sawyer, one of many local girls assigned as “prayer helpers” (or something along that line) for the football players. I guess their job is to pray for the players, assist them, that sort of them. Although one of the girls takes it a bit, ahem, further. Looking like the spitting image of her former TV co-star Jennifer Love Hewitt (“The Tuxedo”), Chabert acquits herself nicely and her burgeoning romance with star Nick Cornish (last seen pretending to hack computers in “Code Hunter”) is believable and endearing.
It goes without saying that parents need not worry about premarital sex between the two leads. Actually, I didn’t even see a kiss until the very end, so there you go. There are some mentions of God, but unless you are completely paranoid or have a God issue, the few mentions of the Lord won’t offend anyone. The movie doesn’t preach, unless you consider its lessons about traditions to be preachy, in which case you need to get out of the big cities because you’re royally screwed up.
Perhaps a bit too predictable for its own good (predictably so, natch), “Hometown Legend” is nevertheless entertaining. Veteran Terry O’Quinn makes one terrific football coach, although I have to admit that if a man put his foot on my head I would be forced to cut off that foot and shove it down his throat. Then again, that’s just me.
James Anderson (director) / Shawn Hoffman, Michael Patwin (screenplay)
CAST: Terry O’Quinn …. Buster Schuler
Lacey Chabert …. Rachel Sawyer
Nick Cornish …. Elvis Jackson
Kirk B.R. Woller …. Cal Sawyer