A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Dissolute, lying Ray is a poor role model -- so bad that a judge took away his own son -- despite the fact that he attempts to offer some worthy life lessons (mostly vague statements about following your "inner voice"). Dave seems like a good, steady kid, but he commits an act of vandalism, and it's suggested that he'll ultimately desert his own heartbroken father (unless Ray's example changes his mind).
Violence & Scariness
The main character pulls a gun on some teen vandals.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Slanderous school-hall talk about a child-molesting relationship between Dave and Ray. Obscene vandal drawings.
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Locker-room talk. Swear words include "s--t" other crude language includes "dick."
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Products & Purchases
Product cameos include the infamous Ginsu knife infomercial.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A woman who's an insulin-dependent diabetic talks about being mistaken for a junkie. Ray is drunk much of the time, and many paternal heart-to-heart chats happen over cans and bottles. Ray gets underage Dave to drink for the first time. Ray also smokes and chews tobacco, despite a dire health prognosis.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this often-uncomfortable indie drama revolves around a teen boy who hangs out with a dissolute, dying older man who becomes a questionable mentor-father figure (he turns the kid on to alcohol, etc.). The older man, Ray, spends his days smoking, drinking, and dealing with the negative consequences of his actions. Viewers who can look at Ray from a somewhat sophisticated perspective -- he doesn't get obsessed with bitter regrets or the obvious lessons of his bad choices -- won't notice (or miss) the absence of the expected preaching. But teens may not take away the same message. Be ready for frank locker-room language, as well as a false accusation of pedophilia. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
If you can imagine The Bad News Bears strictly pared down to the irascible, pickled, washed-up coach's relationship to one player, it might look something like this. Notoriously hard-living actor Nolte plays nicely off newcomer Morgan. Their banter sustains viewer interest despite an absence of baseball action, supporting characters who come and go arbitrarily, and a sort of question mark hanging over the whole production.
OFF THE BLACK takes its title from baseball slang meaning just outside the strike zone. In other words, a near miss -- kind of like the movie itself. Writer-director James Ponsoldt's wistful little drama doesn't quite manage to be convincing, but it might just inspire some useful conversations. Exactly what life lessons is Dave getting from Ray? Or is it Ray -- a victim of multiple bad choices in a tumultuous life -- who's getting a final-inning redemption via genuinely fatherly moments with a kid who needs some, even if they come from a badly flawed person? Maybe writer-director Ponsoldt is deciding not to preach the obvious, even if what results is kind of a moral muddle.
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Our Editors Recommend
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