The Miracle Season is one of those inspiring and bittersweet sports dramas about athletes overcoming adversity. In this case, the athletes are members of a high school girls’ volleyball team who struggled to regroup — and play on — after the tragic death of their team leader and star setter Caroline ‘Line’ Found. Here’s what the movie has going for it: The uplifting story is basically true; And, it stars two Oscar winners, Helen Hunt as tough-love coach Kathy Bresnahan and William Hurt as Caroline Found’s grieving father Ernie, who lost his wife to cancer just one week after his daughter died in a moped accident. Here’s the rub: Hunt and Hurt are all-stars. The rest of the cast is junior varsity. Not exactly a level playing field.
The movie is based on Bresnahan’s book “The Miracle Season”, which recounts how her heartbroken team channeled Caroline’s spirit and energy to make an improbable run for a second straight state championship in 2011. They needed to win 15 consecutive games to qualify (cue the obligatory montage). They did. And they needed to come from behind in dramatic fashion to win the title. They did. It’s not a spoiler. It’s the reason the book was written and the movie got made. It’s Friday Night Lights with volleyball. In fact, the screenplay was co-written by Friday Night Lights (2004) scribe David Aaron Cohen, and directed by Sean McNamara, who helmed the 2011 motivational sports drama Soul Surfer about Bethany Hamilton. Hunt appeared in that one too.
The Miracle Season checks all the boxes for a sports drama but falls short on the emotional pull, save for a few scenes featuring Hunt and Hurt. On the plus side, it is family-friendly fare that could resonate with older kids, teens, volleyballers and other athletes and fans of high school sports. Note: Stick around for the end credits. They are almost more captivating than the film itself – with pictures and vignettes of the real people and events at the heart of the story, some of which was also featured in a “Real Sports” segment that ran several years ago on HBO. The segment (with the late Frank DeFord) delivers “The Miracle Season” in a nutshell. If short on time, watch that instead.