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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Contest tackles the issue of bullying as it plays out between a high school athletic star and the downtrodden victim of his persistent physical and emotional abuse. The story follows the two as they're forced into a cooperative relationship that winds up having a positive effect on how each one views the other. Most of the incidents involve teens roughing up classmates in school halls or pressuring them into acting out against their own peers, but a few darker scenes show a non-swimmer thrown into a pool and another bloodied after a violent beat-down. The now-familiar mantra "speak up" is explored with varying degrees of success, with the teens' school's response –- forcing the bully and his victim to join forces on an unsupervised project -– being the most surprisingly ill-advised. Expect occasional language ("hell," mostly), brief physical contact between teens, and an exaggerated depiction of the social barriers in high school. Ultimately, though, the movie extols tolerance, compassion, and understanding as the greatest weapons against bullying.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
CONTEST is set in a small-town high school where social status is irrevocable and the popular members of the swim team rule the roost. Right in the mix is Matt Prylek (Kenton Duty), a team ringleader whose favorite bullying victim is Tommy Dolen (Daniel Flaherty). But when Matt's most recent torment is caught on security cameras, he's suspended from the team and forced to become the school's new poster boy for its anti-bullying campaign by getting on friendly terms with Tommy. Meanwhile, Tommy has entered a teen cooking contest in the hopes of using the prize money to save his grandmother's restaurant, and Matt's older brother, Kyle (Kyle Dean Massey) –- who has an underhanded interest in the restaurant going under –- urges Matt to feign friendship with Tommy to upend his chances in the contest. Neither party is thrilled about the arrangement, but, to their mutual surprise, their forced companionship evolves into a true friendship. Still, old habits die hard, and with so many forces pulling them apart, only time will tell if these two teens can overcome the pressures against them.
Is it any good?
Contest is a low-budget movie that lacks a certain pizzazz teens may have come to expect from the films they watch. Its plot is mostly predictable –- that is, until it veers off into extreme action like one brother running low-tech surveillance on another and some laxative-induced cooking sabotage –- and the characters are cookie-cutter versions of every social niche of the most stereotypical high school you can imagine. But, while that might threaten your teen's attention to the story, it does nothing to mar the messages it's trying to convey about tolerant relationships.
Perhaps the movie's best quality is the care it gives to showing the evolution of both of the main characters' attitudes toward each other. So often in stories of redemption, it's tempting to focus on only the offender's emotional journey, but that's not the case with Contest. Even though Matt's attitude faces the most drastic change, Tommy also finds that he needs to adjust his perspective about his peers as well as about himself. The bottom line? This movie's not likely to win any entertainment awards, but pair it with a discussion with your teens about this timely issue, and it can be another effective weapon in your anti-bullying arsenal.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk with teens about their experiences with bullying. Have you ever seen it in action? Has it ever been directed at you? What different forms can it take? How damaging can it really be?
Teens: How does cyberbullying rank in comparison to more traditional forms? What added dangers exist with online torment? What recourse does a victim have against it? Do you know the rules about the dispensation of information online so you don't become an unwitting accomplice in a cyberbullying incident?
Talk to your teens about the issues that are on their minds. Which ones are most pressing for them? What social pressures exist? How do these play into how they feel about themselves? What sources of inspiration do they have for a positive self-image? How does the media play into that issue?
- On DVD or streaming: December 17, 2013
- Cast: Daniel Flaherty, Katherine McNamara, Kenton Duty
- Director: Anthony Joseph Giunta
- Studio: ARC Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship, High School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 88 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some bullying, rude humor and language
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.