“Gracie,” review by Susan Granger

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Supposedly based on events from the adolescence of actress Elisabeth Shue, this is an amiable, totally predictable, underdog sports melodrama about a determined young girl who defies the odds to play high-school soccer.

Set in South Orange, New Jersey, in 1978, back when it wasn’t socially acceptable for females to participate in certain athletic endeavors, it revolves around Grace Bowen (Carly Schroeder) who, after her oldest brother dies in a car accident after his team lost to their archrival, attempts to break the gender barrier to take his place on the boys’ soccer team. She trains tenaciously, impresses everyone and scores the big goal to save the day. No surprises.

Since she’s obviously too old to star in this fictionalized but very personalized story, Elisabeth Shue plays her own – i.e. Gracie’s – overprotective mother, while her real-life director husband, David Guggenheim (Oscar-winner “An Inconvenient Truth”), gets tripped up with too little time-centric authenticity and too many clichés, like utilizing soaking rains and soggy violins to evoke sadness and Gracie’s setting a caged bird free to fly away.

From Lisa Marie Petersen and Karen Janszen’s screenplay, we learn very little about Gracie except her overwhelming soccer ambition, and the dialogue is heavily laced with declarations like “I am tough enough” and “You can do anything!” Elisabeth’s brother Andrew Shue, a survivor of “Melrose Place,” makes a token appearance as a teacher.

It’s sad that it’s so decidedly mediocre because Carly Shroeder (“Lizzie McGuire”) delivers a spirited performance, as does Dermot Mulroney as Gracie’s gruff but loving father, burdened with his own childhood issues. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Gracie” is an inspirationally formulaic 4. In every sense, it’s a vanity-propelled family project that would have played better as an after-school television special.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.