Going to the Mat

Movie review by
Alistair Lawrence, Common Sense Media
Going to the Mat Movie Poster Image
Sports drama has positive representations; some bullying.
  • G
  • 2004
  • 92 minutes

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

Educational Value

Viewers will gain a better understanding of what life is like for a blind person, learning about concepts such as "facial vision."

Positive Messages

Themes include friendship, overcoming adversity, perseverance, and the importance of practice. Some bullying over a character's blindness, but on the whole it is addressed sensitively and positively.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jace Newfield, a blind teenager from New York who relocates to Utah, learns to overcome his arrogance and insecurity to make new friends. He also has a blind teacher who helps him. Jace doesn't let his blindness hold him back. Despite some bullying, his classmates learn to accept him for who he is. Jace's friend, Mary Beth Rice, encourages Jace to learn how to wrestle. Jace, in turn, passes on what he's learned to his other friend, Fly, to help him become a better wrestler, too. Multi-ethnic groups and friendships are depicted.

Violence & Scariness

Shoving between high school students. Wrestling scenes show controlled aggression such as throws and pins. Someone is accidentally headbutted and gets a bloody nose. One character is hospitalized with a sporting injury and shown in distress beforehand.

Sexy Stuff



"Farm boy" and "hillbilly" are used as insults to describe people from rural areas. A blind character is teased about their disability -- in one instance, they are called "the freak."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Going to the Mat is a sports drama Disney TV movie about a blind teenager who joins the school wrestling team as way to make friends. The movie handles Jace Newfield's (Andrew Lawrence) blindness sensitively and positively, with Jace excelling at wrestling. At first he finds it difficult to fit in, but this is more to do with his snobby and arrogant attitude rather than his blindness. That said, there is some bullying -- Jace is called "the freak" in one scene. There is controlled aggression during the wrestling scenes and some sporting injuries, but none are serious. Jace is introduced to wrestling by his friend, Mary Beth Rice (Alessandra Torresani) who later becomes his love interest -- the two share a kiss. The movie has a diverse supporting cast, with the central themes being friendship, overcoming adversity, and perseverance.

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What's the story?

GOING TO THE MAT follows Jace Newfield (Andrew Lawrence) a talented, but flawed, blind teenager, as he adjusts to life in a new city and a new school. Jace must overcome a series of obstacles that begins with him getting off on the wrong foot with many of his new classmates because of his rudeness and snobbery. But when he joins the wrestling team to test himself and to try to fit in, it provides a new personal and sporting challenge for him to conquer.

Is it any good?

Despite its labored dialogue and limited budget, this movie does a decent job of portraying what it's like to live as a blind teenager and the difficult journey through adolescence. Going to the Mat also addresses the issue of being uprooted from your hometown and having to start again in a different part of the country. The plot has a few contrivances and holes -- Jace bears a grudge against the other wrestlers only after he's provoked them for no reason -- and the script hammers home plenty of points about why Jace is treated differently because of his blindness. The action sequences are similarly stilted, but serve the plot.

Despite all that, the main characters are well drawn. Jace, Fly (Khleo Thomas) and other students have moments where they talk about their struggles and insecurities, and learn that they must be honest and work together in order to deal with them. They also learn the value of listening to parents and teachers who have their best interests at heart.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Jace's blindness is portrayed in Going to the Mat. Do you think it was a positive portrayal of someone who has a disability? Do you know anyone who is blind? How do you think their life must differ from yours? Discuss other movies with characters who have physical disabilities.

  • Talk about the bullying in the movie. Why do you think Jace's new classmates pick on him? How does Jace turn the situation around? What are the effects of bullying? Have you witnessed or experienced bullying? How did it make you feel?

  • Set in the mid-2000s, there are none of the modern technologies to help Jace stay in touch with the friends he leaves in New York. How would things be different today?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love sports

Character Strengths

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