A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this bad-boy-makes-good-on-the-team drama includes scenes of alcohol- and drug-fueled partying, and consequences (one fatality) occur because of drunken driving. There is some blood in the roughhouse rugby action. A juvenile prison environment includes fistfights and references to drugs. Though the bad-boy main character reforms his errant ways, he gets persecuted by his former friends and teammates for doing so.
What's the story?
FOREVER STRONG is inspired by the real-life sports/self-help philosophies of coach Larry Gelwix, of the rugby team of Highland High School in Salt Lake City. Hotshot Arizona rugby star Rick Penning (Sean Faris) is on his way to greatness, even when his Flagstaff team loses, surprisingly, to the unconventional, well-disciplined Highlanders. Then the hard-partying, drug-using Rick injures his girlfriend in a DWI car crash. It's not his first such offense, and Rick, practically disowned by his victory-obsessed coach father, gets sentenced to juvenile prison. The compassionate warden (Sean Astin) arranges for the sulky Rick to practice on the Highland team, where the athlete gradually learns the spirit of real teamwork, sobriety, spirituality, and honor on and off the playing field.
Is it any good?
This sort of formulaic sports-redemption drama has been told before, and probably will be again (and it's been parodied in comedies like The Comebacks and Dodgeball). Even with the based-on-actual-events qualifier, practically everything here will be formula-familiar and predictable, right down to the slow-motion in the championship game finale.
On the plus side of the scorecard, families, especially in religious households, can watch without particular penalties. There's no strong reason for the PG-13 rating; filmmakers bench all swearing from the dialogue, but still manage to convey the atmosphere of a rough, tough sport thanks to the hardworking actors. Rugby, high school or otherwise, is relatively underexposed in American jock flicks, and this is a sturdy promo, and points about unity and respecting one's opponents -- even honoring long-gone team members whose jersey numbers you've inherited -- are well made. The prison subplot would normally seem an unexpectedly harsh milieu, but the wayward hero spends so little time there it really doesn't carry much impact.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the appeal of rugby, AKA English football, a sport with an avid following in much of the world, but not yet predominant in the USA. Ask kids if they think the ethical code and nobility of the Highlander team here can translate just as easily to basketball, hockey, baseball, or whatever team sports they follow. The DVD extras explains more about the native New Zealand "Haka" ritual, warrior-honor, spirituality, and tribal traditions, which can be discussed in and out of sports contexts (see the family movie Whale Rider in particular for a good New Zealand Maori drama).
- In theaters: September 28, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: May 26, 2009
- Cast: Arielle Kebbel, Gary Cole, Penn Badgley, Sean Astin, Sean Faris
- Director: Ryan Little
- Studio: Crane
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 112 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: for thematic material involving teen drug and acohol use, and some disturbing images.
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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.