Endgame

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Endgame Movie Poster Image
Inspiring, if cheesy, story about chess has tragic moments.
  • NR
  • 2015
  • 90 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Encourages teamwork, discipline, and dedication to a craft/sport/activity (in this case, chess). Jose's relationship with his grandmother shows the value of kids learning from older generations and being connected to their grandparents. Also proves that you can't judge how good someone is based on their looks or status.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jose's abuelita is his number-one fan and protector. She defends him and makes sure he knows that she thinks he's smart and special. Mr. Alvarado does a great job of keeping the kids engaged and spending his own money to keep the chess club afloat. Jose learns to deal with his anger and focus on chess.

Violence

Teens die in a fatal car accident (passengers have been drinking, and the driver looks down at his phone before they hit another car head-on). A boy angrily destroys a trophy case at his school and rips down signs on school property. He also punches walls.

Sex

Kids call a girl "hot." Young teens flirt. A little bit of innuendo (a grandmother tells her grandson to think with his big head, not his "other" head).

Language

Insult language: "loser," "stupid." Plus "hell," "damn it," and a couple of curse words in Spanish.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

High schoolers drink in a car; the designated driver, who isn't drinking, looks down at his phone and gets in a fatal accident.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know Endgame is a feel-good family drama based on true events about a chess program that changed the lives of kids in a disadvantaged Texas border town. Starring Modern Family actor Rico Rodriguez, the movie features a little bit of language ("hell," "damn," "stupid") and a scene of teens both drinking and texting while driving -- which has grave consequences. The kids flirt and notice who's attractive (saying someone is "hot" a few times), and a grandmother humorously tells her grandson to think with his big head, not his "other" head. The story explores some serious issues -- such as families dealing with undocumented immigration, lack of resources, the death of a child, and a grieving, emotionally unavailable parent -- and there's plenty to talk about after the credits roll, from the benefits of playing chess and the importance of grandparent-grandchild relationships to the need to treat hobbies, talents, and interests with respect, even if they're not team sports.

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What's the story?

ENDGAME follows Jose (Rico Rodriguez), who lives in the impoverished border town of Brownsville, Texas. Jose is the perpetually overlooked younger brother of high school soccer champ Miguel (Xavier Gonzalez), and everyone from Jose's P.E. coach to his own mom (Justina Machado) makes him feel less important. The one area where Jose outshines his hotshot big bro is chess, which his adoring abuelita (Ivonne Coll) -- the widow of a dedicated player -- has been teaching him since he was 5 years old. When a teacher (Efren Ramirez) decides to start an after-school chess club and enlists Jose to help coach his friends, he's finally got his own special club where he's a star. But after two tragedies strike, Jose is no longer sure he's interested in chess -- or anything else.

Is it any good?

Although this "inspired by true events" drama is occasionally cheesy and melodramatic, the story is just inspiring and sweet enough to make for a fine family movie night. You'll have plenty to discuss after watching Jose and his classmates learn how to play chess (and, in Jose's case, finding out how chess connects him to his grandmother and his dearly departed grandfather). The twin tragedies that leave Jose feeling alone and unloved (except by his fairly awesome abuelita, played brilliantly by Coll, who's an expert at portraying scene-stealing grandmothers thanks to her role on Jane the Virgin) turn the movie into a bit of a sentimental after-school special, but that's not a bad thing -- just a predictable one.

Jose isn't as charming as Rodriguez' character Manny on ABC's hit Modern Family; the actor has to stretch himself to depict Jose's anger and sadness. And Jose's disengaged mother, Karla, is difficult to empathize with; although she's not, strictly speaking, abusive, she so obviously favors Miguel to Jose that it's hard to believe (for example, she makes Miguel hearty full breakfasts, while Jose gets stale cereal and a few drops of milk). A subplot involving Jose and a cute female opponent seems unnecessary, but perhaps director Carmen Marron felt like mild flirtation was needed to lighten the darker plot points. It might have worked better to include more of Jose and his best friend, Dani (Alina Herrera), before her family faces deportation, as their friendship -- along with Jose's relationship with his grandmother -- is the most evocative part of the film.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the power of diverse stories. Why is it important for all people to see themselves mirrored in art? Do the characters in this movie face different challenges than the average/typical movie kid?

  • How is teen drinking depicted in the movie? What are the consequences of not just drinking, but texting while driving?

  • What ideas does the movie address around the subject of immigration? How does immigration affect not just the undocumented but also their families and communities?

  • Do you think more students would benefit from learning chess? What does chess offer the characters in the movie?

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