By Barbara Shulgasser-Parker,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Inspiring true-life tale about blind football player.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
After losing his sight, gifted high school football player Travis finds a way to live a meaningful life and even play football again. Consistently uplifting messages about triumph through hard work and teamwork over adversity.
Positive Role Models
Travis finds strength from family, friends, coaches, a personal dedication to hard work, and his faith.
Violence & Scariness
Large high school football players bash into each other in practice and games. Several players are injured in the course of practices and games.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Travis's best friend, Jerry, appears to have a drinking problem; he's seen drinking beer while his friends show concern and disappointment.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that 23 Blast is based on the inspiring true story of Travis Freeman, a Kentucky high school football player who went blind -- but, owing to the support of his coach and teammates, was able to play despite his disability. Religion is portrayed as one of Travis's sustaining strengths, in addition to a loving family and loyal friends. Expect the kind of on-field violence normally seen in a football game: Players willfully try to run each other down in practice, and some are sacked by opposing teams hard enough to get hurt. A player has a bloodied hand in one game. But other than that -- and the fact that one of Travis' friends is portrayed as having a drinking problem -- there's not much iffy stuff here, and plenty of positive messages about the payoffs of hard work, teamwork and individual strength.
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What's the Story?
After a severe eye infection, high school football star Travis (Mark Hapka) wakes up blind and immediately succumbs to all the stages of mourning for his lost sight, including rage and depression. His concerned father (director Dylan Baker) and mother (Kim Zimmer) feel helpless, but his caseworker, Patty (feisty and amusing Betty Ann Baker), forces Travis to learn to walk with a cane and to reintegrate into his old life. In the meantime, Travis' team falters without him. His wise coach (Stephen Lang) recognizes that Travis' generous spirit and football smarts can still play a role in bringing the team together. The coach asks him to come back and play in a specially defined role, but Travis hesitates, fearing he'll let his team down -- then the movie suggests that he looks to spiritual inspiration to give him the courage to take to the field. Ultimately, he not only shows the good stuff he's made of but triumphs after high school as well. A secondary plot concerns Travis' best friend Jerry (Bram Hoover), who's been troubled since childhood and drinks too much beer. His friends have reason to worry about him, but despite jealousy and self-doubt, he comes through for Travis.
Is It Any Good?
Baker takes what could be a preachy script based on real lives and turns it into an even-handed movie with a largely pleasing story of triumph over adversity. A few cliches were probably unavoidable -- Timothy Busfield is a caricature as the school athletic director, meddling with the coach's decisions. But Lang brings depth, humor, and Kentucky charm to the seen-it-all coach who gives Travis a chance.
The inevitable and climactic Big Game and its formulaic drama are handled well in the script, acting, and especially direction. Hapka, who looks like a young Matt Damon, and Hoover, as the damaged-but-loyal Jerry, both make their long friendship believable. Disability can be a difficult subject for children, and this movie may not be for every tween, but some may be inspired to work through their own shortcomings and challenges after seeing this.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about what it would be like to suddenly be disabled. What would you no longer be able to do that you used to do? What might you be able to do better than you used to do?
How can feeling sorry for yourself work against you? How can facing adversity help make you a stronger person than you were before?
Some members of Travis' team didn't want him to come back, but they found that if they helped Travis play better, the team would benefit. How can helping one other person sometimes lead to benefits for many?
- In theaters: October 24, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: January 13, 2015
- Cast: Mark Hapka, Bram Hoover, Stephen Lang
- Director: Dylan Baker
- Studio: Ocean Avenue Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Great Boy Role Models, High School
- Run time: 98 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some teen drinking
- Last updated: April 14, 2023
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