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Forever Strong is a sports film directed by Ryan Little and written by David Pliler and released on September 26, 2008. The film stars Sean Faris, Gary Cole, Neal McDonough, Sean Astin, Penn Badgley and Arielle Kebbel. The film is about a troubled rugby union player who must play against the team his father coaches at the national championships. Forever Strong is based on a compilation of individual true stories.

Forever Strong
Forever strong.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRyan Little
Produced byAdam Abel
Ryan Little
Steven A. Lee
Brian Peck
Brad Pelo
Written byDavid Pliler
StarringSean Faris
Gary Cole
Penn Badgley
Arielle Kebbel
Sean Astin
Yolanda Wood
Neal McDonough
Julie Warner
Olesya Rulin
Larry Bagby
Music byJ Bateman, Bart Hendrickson, Pieter Schlosser, Clay Duncan
CinematographyT.C. Christensen
Picture Rock Entertainment
Go Films
Distributed byCrane Movie Company
Excel Entertainment Group
(home video)
Release date
September 26, 2008
Running time
112 minutes
CountryUnited States


Rick Penning (Sean Faris) is captain of his high school rugby team whose coach Richard Penning (Neal McDonough) is his father, and whose players indulge in drugs and alcohol. After losing the championship to their rivals the Highland Rugby Team, Rick drinks and drives, resulting in a crash that seriously injures his girlfriend.

He is sentenced to a boys' Juvenile Detention Center in Salt Lake City.[1] The manager of the center, Marcus (Sean Astin) puts him on the Highland rugby team much to his chagrin, coached by Larry Gelwix (Gary Cole). He struggles to adapt to this new team's ways. A friend sends him a rugby ball with drugs hidden in the stitching. He uses the drugs until, influenced by something one of his new teammates tells him, he throws the drugs away. He works hard and finds the strength to become a member of the widely admired Highland team. Each day when he arrives at team practice he criticizes the coach for sitting around chatting with different team members and not doing any real coaching. Then it is his turn to sit with the coach and finds himself confessing to the drugs hidden in the rugby ball. The coach deals with it and tells him that his teammates want him to be a coach. He is influenced by brotherhood and can cope with his homesickness.

Driving home after a celebration meal, the team are helping a mother and two children with a flat tire when a passing car clips one of the boys. Rick now must deal with the death of his first true friend Kurt (Michael J. Pagan). Rick is released and returns to live with his parents. His father wants him to tell about the Highland team's moves and plays but Rick resists and they argue. His father makes it up by lending Rick the keys to his sports car, and Rick drives to meet up with Tammy (Tyler Kain) and his old friends. They too become angry that Rick won't reveal the Highland team's secrets and a fight breaks out. They plant drugs and alcohol in the sports car and Rick is arrested when the police show up. Tammy tells the police what really happened and Rick is released. Rick finds himself again in the national championship, this time against the former friends on his old team coached by his estranged father. The game is hard fought. Players from his old team try to hurt Rick through cheap shots to collect the bounty on his head. Coach Penning tells Rick if he stays down Rick will end up like him. Rick gets back up and, in the final seconds, scores the winning try for Highland. As the film ends it is shown that in real life, under Coach Gelwix, Highland has been winning almost every year.



The movie was filmed in Salt Lake City beginning in July 2006 at three local high schools.[2] Sean Faris ran six miles twice a day to get in shape for the film.[3] During filming, Faris sprained his ankle, but had the ankle taped, and continued filming.[3] Several All-American rugby players, predominantly from the University of Utah and Brigham Young University, played in the film. Some Highland Rugby alumni and current players also played roles in the film.

The name of the film is based on a phrase that Gelwix often shares with his team members, "kia kaha" which in the Maori language means Stay strong. The longer version: "Be forever strong on the field, so that you will be forever strong off the field." The players call them "Gelwixism".[4]

Forever Strong is based on an amalgam of true stories about the Highland Rugby high school team.[2] The character Rick Penning is based on a real member of the rugby team who played in Flagstaff, Arizona and was sent to a group home in Salt Lake City.[2] The story attracted the production company Go Films.[2] "Forever Strong" was the first sports themed film Go Films had made. Producer Adam Abel and Director Ryan Little were attracted to the story because of Highland Rugby's tradition of winning both on and off the field. The film name "Forever Strong" is taken from the team motto of the Highland High School rugby team.[5] "Forever Strong" was released in fall 2008 and distributed by Crane Movie Co.


  1. "Ready Or Not" – Manbreak
  2. "Pimpin Hard" – B.A.S.K.O.
  3. "Nothing Less" – The Travezty
  4. "Mele Kalikimaka" – Mugsy
  5. "Corporate Logic" – Stereoliza
  6. "Don't Make Me Dance" – Joshua Creek
  7. "The Deal" – Clay Duncan & Allday
  8. "Forever Strong" – Sink To See

Maori cultureEdit

Forever Strong contains use of the haka (traditional Maori dance and song) "Ka Mate". The iwi (tribal grouping) Ngati Toa chief Te Rauparaha is credited with composing this particular haka. The film contains a scene in which one player translates the lyrics of "Ka Mate" for his teammate.

Critical receptionEdit

As of October 10, 2008, the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 29% of critics rated the film positively based on 14 reviews.[6] Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 37 out of 100 based on 9 reviews — indicating generally negative reviews.[7]

However, the public rated the movie much more favorably, according to IMDb, which reported an average score of 7.3/10 from 8,204 users.[8]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Sean Faris in Forever Strong!". IMTA. 2006-08-07. Retrieved 2007-04-25.
  2. ^ a b c d Missy Thompson (2006-08-10). "GHS turned into movie set for rugby film". Tooele Transcript-Bulletin. Retrieved 2007-04-25.
  3. ^ a b "Forever Strong (2007) - Trivia". IMDb. Retrieved 2007-04-25.
  4. ^ Sullivan, Bryan (October 7, 2008). "Larry Gelwix "The Real Forever Strong Coach"". Retrieved 16 October 2011.
  5. ^ "Highland High's Larry Gelwix". Archived from the original on 2007-01-03. Retrieved 2007-04-25.
  6. ^ "Forever Strong Movie Reviews, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2008-10-10.
  7. ^ "Forever Strong (2008): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2008-10-10.
  8. ^ "Forever Strong Movie Reviews, IMDb". IMDb. Retrieved 2015-06-06.

External linksEdit