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It\'s a sweet, uplifting film

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Even today, with tens of thousands of soccer moms omnipresent across the landscape of suburban America, it is somewhat puzzling that the world’s most universally accepted sport — known everywhere outside the United States as football — still hasn’t totally enraptured U.S. sports fans. 

Flash back to the late 1970s, and soccer was even less of a factor on the American sports landscape, especially when it came to accepted athletic pursuits for young women. 

Yet in the New Jersey family that spawned future Oscar nominee Elisabeth Shue and her brother Andrew (the “Melrose Place” heartthrob), soccer was not only popular, it was almost a religion.  The Shue siblings, their father and brother William (a true soccer superstar) loved the game and arguably were completely obsessed by it. 

Now the Shues have joined together — notably aided by Elisabeth’s Oscar-winning director husband, Davis Guggenheim (“An Inconvenient Truth”), to give us “Gracie.”  It’s truly a family affair.  Both Elisabeth and Andrew Shue are producers.  And both Shues co-star in the film. 

With only a few changes — like the names of the principal characters — “Gracie” is pretty much an expanded retelling of Elisabeth Shue’s own teenage years and her groundbreaking athletic career as the first female soccer player to make it on the all-boy teams in her region of New Jersey. 

It’s a sweet, uplifting film, and though quite predictable, it gives us a family drama that showcases simple truths about overcoming impossible odds and leaves us with a warm, satisfying feeling deep down.  It’s a solid, hopeful and inspiring story that reminds us of what we might call “old-fashioned” values about perseverance and making your dreams come true.  Old-fashioned?  Not at all. 

Gracie Bowen — portrayed genuinely and with great spirit by Carly Schroeder — is the much loved but largely overlooked only daughter of Bryan Bowen, a moving company worker who himself was once an outstanding amateur soccer player.  Bryan’s hopes for extending the Bowen family legacy of soccer superstardom rest with his idolized oldest son, Johnny, a soccer “natural.” 

When a tragic car crash destroys that dream, Bryan and the entire family are plunged into absolute depression and a state of inertia.  But unlike her other siblings and father, Gracie decides that her own abilities as a player will be the best way to honor Johnny’s memory and restore the family’s sense of pride.   Rated PG-13 for brief sexual content. Three out of four stars

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