A lot or a little?
Parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that 4 Minute Mile has a harder edge than the average sports drama. It's by no means a feel-good tale of beating the odds -- the story is tense and loaded, posing an individual against himself and the self-destructive family patterns he must try to avoid. Violence arises repeatedly and includes physical altercations with bats and guns; one character accidentally gets shot. Much of the violence stems from a character's involvement in drug deals, and an older runner-turned-coach is alcohol dependent and a heavy smoker. Language is intermittent and varies from casual uses of "shut up" to more aggressive uses of "bitches" or "s--t." All of that said, against this troublesome backdrop, the main character learns the power that athletics, and particularly running, can carry -- both as a way to face your own internal struggle and to pave a path to a more positive future. Viewers will appreciate the film's lessons in commitment and grit, as well as how the main character learns to harness his talent in a positive way.
What's the story?
Drew Jacobs (Kelly Blatz) has been fast all his life, and as a star track athlete in his senior year of high school, his unbeaten record in the 400 meters proves that he's still got talent. But when he comes home after practice, it's a different story, with no easy victories. As the younger child in a family of an overworked single mom (Kim Basinger) and an older brother (Cam Gigandet) who's fallen into a dangerous, self-destructive lifestyle, Drew must carry the baggage of familial instability as he faces both personal and athletic pressures. When his attitude causes him to quit the track team at school, he begins to train with his older neighbor (Richard Jenkins), whose rigorous and uncompromising coaching style pushes Drew to confront himself and perhaps excel to heights he's never anticipated in a new event -- the mile. But as his home life continues to unravel and a stunning tragedy takes place, it may take all Drew's got to reach the goals he's set against his opponents, against himself, and -- of course -- against the clock.
Is it any good?
This film proves to be an interesting combination of the typical and the atypical. In many ways, it presents a formulaic hero's-journey-in-sports-form story line, but it also offers a welcome twist in what had the potential to be an otherwise routine ending. In other words, it's not afraid to have its hero fail both on the track and off, yet it still finds a way for him to win -- a victory that ends up being by no means the standard measure of a runner's success, but one that the film teaches could perhaps matter even more.
The pacing of the film can feel a bit inconsistent at times -- it's driven during the (perhaps too repetitive) scenes of Drew running around Seattle, as well as during the tense scenes of violence and confrontation, but it lags during talking scenes that at times contain slow, disjointed dialogue. And it certainly has its share of clichés -- the wise old has-been as a coach with an unconventional style, the skeptical athlete slow to buy in but unreasonably talented, and the need to confront your own personal challenges in order to truly excel. But many of the typical sports drama messages may be welcomed by viewers, who will likely find them worth repeating. Though seasoned runners may wince at some of the details, Drew's tale is undoubtedly a testament to the way that athletics have the power to transform a life as a whole -- providing a path to a more secure future, teaching the life-long values of dedication and mental strength, and instilling an unparalleled confidence in personal ability. Viewers will find themselves whole-heartedly invested in Drew's success and thus taken on a bit of an emotional roller coaster by the end of what proves to be, for the most part, a compelling tale.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the role that violence and substance use/abuse play in the movie. Are they necessary to the story? Do they have realistic consequences?
Discuss the mental side of sports. What does it mean when Coleman says Drew must face his own fear and run through it? Does Drew reach a conclusion about winning the race against himself as opposed to against others?
What kind of pressures and complexities are at work in the relationship between Drew and his brother? What might it be like when someone you love is making choices that negatively affect everyone around, including him or herself? Does Drew handle the situation in the best way?
- In theaters: August 1, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: October 7, 2014
- Cast: Kelly Blatz, Richard Jenkins, Analeigh Tipton, Kim Basinger
- Director: Charles-Olivier Michaud
- Studio: Gravitas Ventures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Sports and martial arts, High school
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: mature thematic material involving violence, drinking and drugs, and for smoking and some language
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.