• by Wes Singleton

The Miracle Season, B-

Rated PG-13, 99 minutes

There seems to be no shortage of true, inspiring sports-themed films, but the touching new real-life sports story "The Miracle Season" still manages to keep its head in the game. Based on the true story of an Iowa girls volleyball team who tragically lost their star player, it pulls few surprises and runs the risk of being a tad oversentimental, but it'll still leave you cheering.

Caroline "Line" Found (Broadway actress Danika Yarosh) is the star player and captain of the volleyball team at West High School in Iowa City, Iowa. Her tragic death in an accident inspires Caroline's coach Kathy Bresnahan (Oscar-winner Helen Hunt) and teammates to band together to try and win the state championship.

There's no denying that Found's story is a worthy one, and it's this source story that provides the real heart of the uplifting, enjoyable "The Miracle Season," which is directed by "Soul Surfer's" Sean McNamara and co-written by "Friday Night Lights'" David Aaron Cohen and Elissa Matsueda ("Spare Parts"). Line led the West Ladies Volleyball team to a state championship as a junior setter in 2010, yet was tragically killed in a moped accident in the summer of 2011.

The film tells the story of how the coach and team, under a load of difficult circumstances (Found's mother Ellyn died of cancer just 2 weeks after Line was killed) came back and won the state championship again in Line's honor. "Miracle Season," which is in need of a better title to avoid confusion to the 1980 U.S. Olympic Men's Hockey team, is made better by the addition of two Oscar-winners, Hunt as the coach, and William Hurt as Line's father.

It's also made better by the fact that it's not only the men carrying the load for the team, it's a group of courageous young ladies, and it's this girl power that's "Miracle Season's" real calling card. Even with that, you'll still need a bucket of tissues, especially in the first act after Line passes, then again when they win the big game; it's also somewhat difficult to get pumped-up excited about volleyball, but McNamara does his best to keep interest by summarizing many of the games.

In addition, we know that the formula for these inspiring real-life sports stories is that sports is the mere backdrop for overcoming the many obstacles in life, and there's more to life than a game. The likable, moving "The Miracle Season" teeters on being manipulative (parts of it are really sad in an ugly cry sort of way), but the story is a winner. Stay over for the credits, and you'll loads of actual footage of Found's family, the coach, and all the girls.

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