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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Go Karts (aka Go!) is an Australian movie about a teen finding both his true passion (go-karting) and a mentor who will teach him to drive his go-kart and live with honor. It's a familiar story, with many of the traditional underdog elements (e.g., an arrogant competitor to take on, a struggling single mom), plus bullying, matchmaking, and life-changing moments for everyone involved. In this film, go-kart competitions replace other sporting events as the key to growing up with solid values. A few curses are heard: "hell," "piss off," "ass," and "in the nuts." Mild action includes a go-kart accident that's momentarily suspenseful (no one is injured) and bullies who menace the heroes and throw one punch.
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What's the story?
Teen Jack Hooper (William Lodder) arrives in a new town still healing from the years-earlier death of his dad in GO KARTS. Jack tries hard to be supportive of his single mom, Christie (Frances O'Connor), who is trying to make a new life for herself and her son. However, he can't yet control the anger and disappointment he has faced in his young life. In the coastal town of Busselton, go-karting is an important sporting event. Jack, making his first new friend, Colin (Darius Amarfio Jefferson), at an impromptu party, gets a glimpse of the sport and is intrigued. Taking a spin in the go-kart amazes him; it's thrilling, it's fun, and he does it surprisingly well for a novice! In the under-16 competition in Busselton, Dean (Cooper van Grootel), an arrogant rich kid, seems to win every race. In thrall of his first ride, Jack decides to take Dean on, maybe all the way to the national competition. Jack soon realizes that he has much to learn and can't rely only on what may be a natural talent. Enter Patrick (Richard Roxburgh), a grizzled go-kart veteran with an unhappy past, and Mandy (Anastasia Bampos), an outstanding mechanic and Dean's sister. Working as a team, Jack, Patrick, Mandy, and Colin attempt what seems to be impossible, but they're determined. But so is Dean. With his bullying sidekicks as his "team," Dean is determined to override Jack's plan.
Is it any good?
It's a well-worn story: new kid in town, dead dad, ascending competitions to win, bullies, an unlikely girl, and a has-been pro to make him grow up, but oddly the actors and go-karts make it fun. Richard Roxburgh, an Australian treasure, breathes life into what might have been a stock character as Patrick. William Lodder as Jack is natural and engaging and has heartthrob potential. For a low-budget effort, the go-kart races are fine. Suspense is limited, however. Each race goes exactly as predicted -- even the one race that the filmmakers hoped would be a "twist." For kids who like underdog sports stories, especially ones that add a fresh dialect and new sport to the mix, Go Karts is wholesome if not inventive movie-making.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the positive aspects of seeing movies from other countries, especially for kids. What are some of those positives? In what ways did Go Karts enrich your awareness of Australian culture? How were the teens in Australia like the kids in your own community? What, if anything, besides their accents was different?
Two themes pop up in lots of movies made for families and kids: losing a parent and moving to a new place. Do you think that using these elements makes the storyteller's job easier? Why or why not? How do those themes encourage audiences to feel sympathy for and root for the characters?
What does the word "mentor" mean? Who is the mentor in Go Karts? What does Jack learn from him? What does his mentor learn from Jack? Do you have a mentor in your life? Describe your relationship.
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