In ‘Chasing Great,’ the Softer Side of Rugby

Posted March 2, 2018 5:20 p.m. EST

A chronicle of how rugby player Richie McCaw went from being the best (as a schoolboy) to the best (as an adult), “Chasing Great” is a fawning documentary on the New Zealand sports star’s career and final season in 2015.

For a movie that revolves around a notoriously violent sport, Michelle Walshe and Justin Pemberton’s profile takes a soft, superficial approach.

It makes a rote installment of ESPN’s “30 for 30” look like Pulitzer-worthy muckraking.

Any player who has reached the top of the rugby world has clearly faced adversity, but “Chasing Great” mostly hops from one triumph to another, reminding us that McCaw remained an ordinary guy despite his success.

Judging from the film, the main setbacks he encountered were his team’s crushing loss to France in the 2007 Rugby World Cup (the subject of national hand-wringing in New Zealand, but not an incident whose emotional impact travels) and playing with a broken foot during the World Cup in 2011. “Chasing Great” makes that look easy.

Too little time is spent on strategy, McCaw’s style of captaining or his apparent skill for tiptoeing up to the edge of the rules.

We do learn about his habit of writing notes to himself before a game (be “calm, clear and decisive,” “enjoy,” “just play”) and the pressure he felt to go out with a win.

But even fans, the only conceivable audience here, already know how that turned out.

"Chasing Great"

Not rated. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.