A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is one of the few films in the "inspiring sports drama" genre that deals with female athletes. Battling the sexist double standard that girls' teams don't matter as much as boys' is the movie's central theme. Based on a true story, the film is set in 1960s Oklahoma; men, particularly fathers, are depicted as having complete authority. One of the teenage athletes elopes and has a baby. At first it's a big scandal, but she's eventually accepted and let back on the team. Adoption is discussed as being a peculiar, uncommon occurrence.
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What's the story?
Girls? The thought of coaching them seems preposterous to Clay Driscoll (earnest newcomer Jeffrey Donovan), who travels to Middleton, Okla., in the 1960s prepared to coach the varsity boys' team. But that position is filled, so he's forced to coach the girls' team -- the Lady Cyclones. Faced with an underperforming crew of untrained players, the coach begins to treat the girls like boys. They run laps in a closed gym and practice shots and plays they've never tried before -- and eventually their "old-fashioned grit" leads them to a Cinderella season culminating with the state championships. Along their way, Driscoll and the girls overcome several obstacles, most of all, gaining a fan base. Meanwhile, big man in town Ellis Brawley (Bruce Dern) can't stand Driscoll and his newfangled idea of empowering female athletes. Of course, the Lady Cyclones are up to the task of proving Brawley wrong. Driven by their caring young coach, the girls determine to play as hard as the boys, even though they know they'll probably end up "farmers' and ranchers' wives." Can they achieve their winning moment at State? You can only guess.
Is it any good?
Yes, it's predictable and features far less star power than many other sports dramas, but this film is a feel-good history lesson that all kids -- especially girls -- should take to heart.
Movies about underdog sports teams defying the odds to reach athletic victories are so common that they tend to blur together after a while (was that the one with the first all-black basketball lineup or the first integrated football team or the first season after a tragic accident?). And yet, each manages to be heartfelt, no matter how hokey the Hollywood formula has gotten. Believe In Me is no different -- except that this time the underdogs are girls.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why the Lady Cyclones weren't as valued as the boys' basketball team. Is sexism still evident in high-school -- or even professional -- sports? What can be done to change that? How did Coach Driscoll treat his players "like boys"? How did the team prove Mr. Brawley wrong? What has changed since the 1960s for young women interested in sports? Can you think of female athletes who serve as role models in various sports? Why don't more sports movies deal with female athletes' teams?
- In theaters: March 8, 2007
- On DVD or streaming: September 4, 2007
- Cast: Bruce Dern, Jeffrey Donovan, Samantha Mathis
- Director: Robert Collector
- Studio: IFC Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 108 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some mild thematic elements and language
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