05/31/2012 11:46 EDT | Updated 07/31/2012 05:12 EDT

Lacrosse gets a close-up in 'Crooked Arrows' starring Brandon Routh

TORONTO - Lacrosse, which is Canada's official summer sport and the fastest growing game in the U.S., gets a long-awaited close-up in the new feature film "Crooked Arrows," starring former "Superman" Brandon Routh.

The opening of the family friendly sports flick traces lacrosse's history back hundreds of years to it aboriginal origins, before fast forwarding to modern day where it has become increasingly popular across North America.

Although Routh had limited exposure to lacrosse before signing on to the project, the film was a labour of love for the producers and writers, who worked for years to get the fast-paced, aggressive sport before a wide big-screen audience.

Routh plays a mixed-blood native American who hopes to modernize and expand a casino on his family's traditional land. But before he gets the go ahead, he is tasked by his father and the tribal council with coaching the reservation's high school lacrosse team, which is badly in need of leadership.

While Routh is on the sidelines for most of the action, he did go through a few weeks of intensive training to learn the ins and outs of the sport.

But he wasn't brave enough to scrimmage with the young men who play the high school students, who in most cases were real lacrosse players with no previous acting experience.

"I worked in L.A. for a few weeks before I went out and was feeling kind of OK. And then I got there and saw them playing and went, 'Oh man, I need to keep working,'" Routh said, adding that the young rookie actors did remarkably well.

"I thought it was going to be more challenging than it ended up being. I was not expecting them to be as relaxed and casual about the whole experience as they were and they did a real nice job bringing authenticity to the film."

The film's unabashed attempt to boost the profile of lacrosse wasn't an easy sell when it came time to raise financing. To get it made, sponsors including Reebok were brought on board and there are some obvious moments of product placement throughout the film.

"To some extent we had to have some commercialism," Routh said in defending the integration of sponsors into the film.

"We had to get funding for the movie, especially with a small movie like this about a sport that's not the No. 1 sport in America. But I think we were able to work with the sponsors we had and use them in a great way to help grow the sport."

Routh said he was promised the film would definitely get into theatres but knew it would probably be in tough against a lineup of summer blockbusters.

"You just hope that the word spreads and that we can fight through all the exploding, monsters and superheroes this summer and elbow a little room in for a great underdog sports movie and help lacrosse spread across the country," he said.

"We're certainly not going to make a billion dollars but we'd like to take a little off some of the big guys."

"Crooked Arrows" opens Friday in Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.