A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that coming-of-age sports drama Free Style is grittier than what tweens and teens who "met" star Corbin Bleu through the hit High School Musical movies might expect. Although there’s little swearing ("dumba--" is as strong as it gets) and the romance is pretty tame (expect a bit of kissing and flirting), there's a brief scene of underage drinking, and the themes are more mature than tween-targeted Disney fare -- including financial struggles, family and friendship stress, and the challenges that can come with being biracial. The motocross races have a fair bit of action, with the main character and his rival performing some dangerous stunts in an effort to outdo each other.
What's the story?
Cale Bryant (Corbin Bleu) is obsessed with motocross racing and is convinced he has what it takes to make it in the big leagues. While his peers prepare for college, he’s busy trying to make his dreams come true -- while also working at a pizza shop to earn extra money to help his single mother (Penelope Ann Miller). His best friend, Justin (Jesse Moss), has his back, but when circumstances start defining how different their lives are, their friendship grows strained. Complicating matters, Cale loses his sponsorship and his girlfriend, and his long-lost father may not have been the bad guy Cale always thought he was. Can he juggle all these challenges -- plus a new romance -- and make it to the pro circuit?
Is it any good?
There’s nothing seriously wrong with FREE STYLE, but there’s nothing great about it, either. Its simplistic plot seems better suited for an after-school special than a big-screen treatment. That said, it’s entertaining enough for Bleu fans who simply want to enjoy their idol’s talents. (We know he can sing and dance, but he can apparently ride motocross bikes pretty solidly, too.) He does fairly well with the film's heavier themes; his scenes with Madison Pettis, who plays his younger sister, are especially poignant.
The racing scenes are thrilling enough, and the fact that the film explores the challenges of being biracial is admirable -- though it just scratches the surface of the issue. Actually, that’s pretty much all Free Style does with most of its plot points, including motocross: It sputters and doesn't quite go full throttle. And there’s the rub.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether Cale’s predicament -- and his goal -- seems realistic. What do you think you'd do in a similar situation?
Is the film’s depiction of teen relationships accurate? How does it compare to the version you've seen in movies like High School Musical?
- In theaters: October 9, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: February 9, 2010
- Cast: Corbin Bleu, Jesse Moss, Madison Pettis, Sandra Echeverria
- Director: William Dear
- Studio: Samuel Goldwyn Company
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Cars and Trucks, Sports and Martial Arts
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: language, some sensuality and thematic material
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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.