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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Amateur is a 2018 drama in which a 14-year-old basketball star joins an elite college prep school and is thrust into the ethical concerns swirling around amateur athletics. There's frequent profanity, including the "N" word and "f--k." Some bullying and hazing occurs, as the lead character, still in 8th grade, has joined a team with older players. The movie uses the story to explore relevant themes in contemporary sports, such as whether or not student athletes should be paid, especially when their family is struggling to make ends meet while the school and athletic program make millions of dollars off of their talents. The father of the lead character also struggles with his mental and emotional well-being due to the concussions he received as an athlete in his younger years. Overall, the movie is adept at combining enough sports action with this message so it doesn't come off as preachy, and should inspire discussion among families with kids who play sports.
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What's the story?
Terron (Michael Rainey Jr.) is an AMATEUR basketball phenom. While still in 8th grade, he's receiving offers to join elite college prep schools where many basketball stars got their start before turning pro. He meets Coach Gaines (Josh Charles), who convinces Terron and his family to join his program at Liberty Prep. Besides learning how to step up his game in his new and more competitive environment, Terron learns that his education doesn't seem to be a priority to anyone at his new school, and with his rising stardom comes questionable ethical dealings with his recruiter, who gives him a free smartphone. He's also told that "the brand" is more important than any team, because brands are looking for long-term investments and "business relationships" with players, even players as young as Terron. As the pressures increase, they only magnify when Terron's father joins the team as an assistant coach. When Terron overhears and then records Coach Gaines revealing the extent of the program's questionable practices to his father, it seems that Terron's athletic ambitions have collapsed, until he comes up with a way to both redeem Coach Gaines and take his life in basketball in a new direction.
Is it any good?
This movie is like a fictionalized version of the acclaimed 30 for 30 series on ESPN. Through the story of a young basketball prodigy, the movie explores many of the debates surrounding amateur collegiate sports. Should amateur athletes be paid, especially those athletes whose families are struggling to make ends meet as the college and athletic program they represent rake in millions on their talent? How young is too young to "brand" athletes with endorsement deals? Should young athletes representing their school be given easier course loads since they need more time to practice if the school wants to win?
Amateur addresses these concerns while also including the action and inherent drama, excitement, and fun that cause people to follow sports of all kinds in the first place. While there are moments in the story that feel a little too forced and unnatural, the acting, action, and humor keep the audience fully engaged. And there's a believability to Terron as he tries to balance all these demands -- some of a more personal nature, such as a learning disability, as well as the public challenges of being a prodigious basketball talent -- that reveals a deep understanding of character growth and development.
Talk to your kids about ...
- On DVD or streaming: April 6, 2018
- Cast: Michael Rainey Jr., Josh Charles, Brian White
- Director: Ryan Koo
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Great Boy Role Models, High School
- Character strengths: Integrity
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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