Want more recommendations for your family?
Sign up for our weekly newsletter for entertainment inspiration
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Jackie perseveres and follows his passion for basketball despite his father's discouragement and outright harassment.
Positive Role Models
Jackie parties, drinks, and does drugs, undermining his shot at the NBA. He also trains hard for his tryout with the Nets, and his family, except for his father, are supportive and loving of one another. But they also react without empathy to the news of a Black teen's death (and the subsequent protests). Female characters lack nuance and are depicted either as angels (Jackie's mother and girlfriend) or party girls.
Violence & Scariness
Jackie gets into many fights both on the court and in bars. His best friend is beaten badly (off screen) when he doesn't pay his debts to the local mobsters. The family argues frequently and swears at each other. The movie takes place in 1990, when the aftermath of the killing of Black teen Yusef Hawkins sparked protests and violence in Brooklyn.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Almost all of the characters swear a lot -- all varieties of "f--k" are said many times, as are "s--t," "jerkoff," and others. The "N" word is used once among Black characters. Jackie's father uses the phrase "monkey ball," which has racist connotations, to describe basketball.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Jackie and his friends and family drink a lot, often to excess. Characters also smoke marijuana, and viewers see a bag of (presumably) cocaine. Many characters smoke cigarettes. Jackie's default to partying is portrayed as a major problem in his life.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Blackjack: The Jackie Ryan Story covers the months in 1990 when renowned Brooklyn streetball player Jackie Ryan (Greg Finley) got the chance to try out for the New Jersey Nets, only to have his hard-partying ways undermine his dreams. Jackie and his circle of friends and family often overdo it on both alcohol and drugs. Many of the characters swear -- "f--k" is used liberally in all its forms (including "F--k-o," Jackie's father's nickname for his son), as well as "s--t," bitch, and more. The "N" word is used once among Black characters. There are a few minor fight scenes, and one bad beating is heard off- screen. The movie takes place in 1990, when the aftermath of the killing of Black teen Yusef Hawkins sparked protests and violence in Brooklyn. Jackie's family reacts to the news on TV with "So, what, now all White people are bad?" Jackie's main basketball rivalry is with a more successful Black player, whom he (spoiler alert!) ultimately beats in a one-on-one match, to cheers. The women in Blackjack lack nuance and are depicted either as angels (Jackie's mother and girlfriend) or party girls. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Set mostly in 1990, this drama feels like a throwback to that decade -- it has the straightforward, literal style of a TV movie, though with a lot more swearing, drinking, and drugs. If you've never heard of Jackie Ryan, New York streetball, or the Harlem Wizards, go watch the Losers Netflix episode about him -- or dig up his Tedx talk. Then, if you're still interested in his story, press "play" on Blackjack: The Jackie Ryan Story. It will fill in some of the blanks about a basketball player who, the opening press montage tells us, was "one of the biggest wastes of talent in the history of basketball." And it certainly does evoke the vibe of that time in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, when it seemed like everyone's dad had a blue-collar job and Yuppies hadn't quite moved in.
As Blackjack begins, we see that Jackie's father doesn't want young Jackie to play basketball: "You know I hate that monkey ball," he says threateningly. Against the backdrop of Brooklyn protests around the 1989 killing of Yusef Hawkins, modern-day viewers may be primed to expect that race will emerge as a theme of the movie, and it does -- in a way that feels decidely uncomfortable today. As they watch the news, Jackie's family members comment, "So, what, now all White people are bad?" And overconfident Jackie is pitted against Gill Turner, a Black player from the same neighborhood who made it onto the Nets. Jackie expects the "neighborhood boys" to stick together, but Turner is consistently unsupportive and at a pivotal point explains why: "We all know why you keep getting second chances. We both know lots of Black guys could bust Jackie's ass but never get a chance." Blackjack ends with (spoiler alert) Jackie beating Turner in a one-on-one playground game as a crowd of locals cheers him on. The epilogue shows us that, years later, Jackie joined the Harlem Wizards (a team similar to the Globetrotters) and used his showman nature to became an entertainer rather than a competitive player. We don't see him overcoming his substance abuse and depression -- central to his achievement of joining the Harlem Wizards -- instead we see him overcoming a more accomplished guy from the neighborhood. It's a win that feels more like revenge than triumph.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.