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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Bennett's War -- a drama that follows a medically discharged soldier (Michael Roark) who spends a year in rehab -- is part motocross-comeback story, part wounded-warrior tale. Produced by motocross-industry sponsors and insiders, the film brings the sport to mainstream audiences while heavily promoting its corporate products and brands (primarily Lucas Oil, MAV TV, and Protect the Harvest, all companies that are run by the filmmakers). There's occasional cursing (including "s--t," "son of a bitch," "bulls--t," and more) and a few jokes that come across as Islamophobic. The movie opens with wartime violence that seriously injures two American soldiers, and later the main character is reinjured during motocross-related accidents. A married couple embraces and kisses. In addition to promoting the sports the producers sponsor, the film has messages about second chances, discipline, hard work, and the value of teamwork and mentorship.
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What's the story?
BENNETT'S WAY follows Marshall Bennett (Michael Roark), a motorcycle-riding Army sergeant who's deployed in the Middle East. Then he and a fellow soldier are seriously injured by an IED and are medically discharged. Back home in Southern California a year later, Marshall goes to rehab, works at his friend Cyrus' (Ali Afshar) motorcycle/motocross shop, helps his father (Trace Adkins) on the family farm, and takes care of his baby while his young wife, Sophie (Allison Paige), goes to nursing school. When Marshall discovers that his father is on the verge of losing the farm, Marshall decides to go back to motocross racing, despite the sizable risk it poses to healthy riders -- let alone those with permanent injuries. With sponsorship help from Cyrus and moral support from an initially reluctant Sophie, Marshall trains to make a professional motocross comeback.
Is it any good?
This formulaic but feel-good drama is filled with enough racing scenes to keep motocross fans happy. Off-road motorcycle racing hasn't been featured in as many movies as other, more mainstream sports, but Bennett's Way does a serviceable job off introducing it (as well as real motocross athletes, sponsors, and venues) in an accessible way to the uninitiated. There's not much substance to the plot, but audiences will root for the earnest, hard-working Marshall as he trains and overcomes setbacks to place at various races.
That said, all of the overt product placement is off-putting. Yes, races are heavily sponsored in real life, too, but the Lucas Oil branding becomes even more blatant when you know that company founder Forrest Lucas, who also has a cameo in the film, is one of the movie's financial backers. The script also has a few Muslim/Iranian/terrorist jokes, but since the actor (and the character he plays) saying the lines is Iranian, the script toes the line between self-deprecating and Islamophobic. At least the decent performances, compelling race sequences, and empowering messages about wounded warriors finding their passion again help make up for the overly familiar storyline and cliché-filled script.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the sport of motocross and what makes extreme sports interesting to audiences. What did you know about motocross before Bennett's War, and what did you learn?
Who do you think the movie's intended audience is? What message do you think the filmmakers want the audience to take away from watching?
A lot of consumer brands are highlighted in the movie, some rather conspicuously. Did you notice it? Does this bother you?
- In theaters: August 30, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: December 3, 2019
- Cast: Michael Roark, Trace Adkins, Ali Afshar
- Director: Alex Ranarivelo
- Studio: ESX Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Cars and Trucks, Sports and Martial Arts, Friendship
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some language and brief violence
- Last updated: May 6, 2020
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