Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Chops Movie Poster Image
Inspiring documentary about high school jazz musicians.
  • NR
  • 2009
  • 88 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

This film is a fine introduction to jazz music, the history of jazz, and the music of Duke Ellington.

Positive Messages

This film is a wonderful introduction to playing music, and the positive results of teenagers putting in long hours of practice on an instrument.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The teenagers who perform in the Essentially Ellington Festival at Lincoln Center are dedicated, hardworking musicians, but also filled with humor and energy that is relatable and fun.

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Chops is a wonderful documentary that's an absolute must-see for musicians of all ages, especially musicians in high school. As these Jacksonville, Florida high school students rehearse Duke Ellington songs for the Essentially Ellington Festival at Lincoln Center in New York City, what emerges is both a celebration of the joys of playing music, and the wonderful results of long hours and days of practice.

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What's the story?

CHOPS is a documentary about a high school jazz ensemble in Jacksonville, Florida that is accepted to compete in the Essentially Ellington Festival at Lincoln Center in New York City against other top-tier high school jazz ensembles. The film interviews individual musicians about their love of their instruments and the music itself, and shows the ensemble as they face the challenges inherent in learning and practicing music as difficult as that composed by Duke Ellington. After the hours of practice, they arrive in New York City and meet Wynton Marsalis, who helped launch (and is one of the judges in) the Essentially Ellington Festival.

Is it any good?

CHOPS is as inspiring as it is entertaining, especially for kids who are learning to play a musical instrument. While the challenges and difficulties are many for anyone trying to learn to properly "swing" the music of Duke Ellington, what emerges in Chops is the pure joy of process, of the wonderful results that happen when people put all their time and energy into something they care deeply about.

While being a musician -- aspiring, veteran, or in between -- enhances the experience of viewing Chops, you don't have to play music to enjoy and respect the effort these kids make. For families, Chops should lead to worthwhile conversations about the value of putting 100 percent into your passions and talents, and what inevitably results when you do.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the students in these jazz ensembles are positive role models. How do they go about achieving their goals? Do they inspire you? What would you like to dedicate long hours of practice to?

  • What did you learn about the rich history of jazz from this film? Who are some famous jazz musicians from today and the past?

  • Is the movie a balanced portrait of these kids, or is there something that we're not seeing? What would you like to know more about?

Movie details

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