Forever Strong

 
(i)

 

Uplifting jock drama is predictable but OK for older tweens.
  • Review Date: May 23, 2009
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2008
  • Running Time: 112 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

While the main character starts out as a hard-drinking, self-centered hotshot on and off the field (and in jail), he evolves to embrace higher principles of  "honor," forgiveness, sobriety, and sportsmanship/spirituality. With no denomination specifically mentioned but references to the "Father in Heaven," the Highland team are a prayerful group; pre-game ceremonies even invoke blessings and respect for opposing teams, and they participate in community charities and good-Samaritanship. Multiculturalism prevails on the ethnically mixed team, with particular attention to Pacific islanders and Maori of New Zealand.

Violence

Rugby action and tackles sometimes result in bloody noses and wounds. Off-field scuffling. Brief, non-explicit shot of drunken car accidents, one fatal.

Sex

Brief scenes of affectionate teens in bikinis and swimsuits around the pool. Mild sex innuendo ("Rugby's not the only thing I'm good at").

Language

No verbal profanity, but characters make middle-finger gestures.

Consumerism

Mostly product labels of rugby-gear manufacturers.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Teens raucously drink and party, including the bad-boy hero; when he sobers up, his former friends turn against him. Consequences shown in more than one drunk-driving tragedy. Athlete Rick takes narcotics. A laundry-list of jailhouse drugs is recited.

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?

QUALITY
 

This sort of sports-redemption drama has been told before, and probably will 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.

Families can talk 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).

Movie details

Theatrical release date:September 28, 2008
DVD release date: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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Educator and Parent Written bySkier1225 April 6, 2012
 

Excellent

What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Kid, 10 years old May 25, 2015
 
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 13 years old Written byMockingjay333 October 29, 2012
 

Amazing Movie!!!

This movie is amazing, I love Sean Farris! The whole movie is inspiring and empowering, a great movie for everyone!
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

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