A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that while the on-the-field game/practice violence is typical of recent sports movies (though louder and more brutal), the film also includes street/gun violence. One scene has a player repeatedly trying to knock down his coach (an exercise designed by the coach). Two scenes show shootings with blood, and a couple of scenes show fights between players (they're quickly broken up by adults). Characters use harsh language (especially the n-word and "s--t").
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
The Rock plays Sean Porter, manager of a youth detention facility. Long frustrated by a legal system that sends kids through endless cycles of violence in the streets, their homes, and their juvie blocks, Sean is moved to action when ex-inmate Roger (Michael J. Pagan) is killed in a drive-by shooting within hours of his release from Camp Kilpatrick. Sean's solution: Organize the violence into football. Though his boss, Paul (Leon Rippy), is skeptical about spending the facility's scant state-issued funds on such a body-slamming venture ("The whole system," he notes, "is designed to make them avoid contact"), Sean and his whistle-wearing assistant Malcolm (Xzibit) assemble a team of hard cases. Because they're inclined to defend their turf ("He dissed my hood!" explains one inmate following a scuffle), Sean gives them a new source of identification. "This is your hood now," he asserts, the kids gazing up at him with a mix of doubt and hope.
Is it any good?
Punctuated by rough action scenes, GRIDIRON GANG is a familiar sports saga with kids in need of guidance and a coach in need of support from his institution. At once uplifting and banal, "based on a true story" and codified (not to say "Disneyfied"), the formula is also apparently endlessly profitable.
This time, it's also based on a 1993 documentary (clips from that film, also called Gridiron Gang, play during the closing credits and suggest that Jeff Maguire's script lifts heartfelt dialogue directly from the original speakers). The movie is also invigorated by The Rock (a.k.a. Dwayne Johnson), whose performance is simultaneously wry and warm. Charismatic as ever, he makes the movie's basic corniness slightly easier to bear.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how group identities and loyalties are formed, whether in the form of neighborhood gangs or sports teams. They can also discuss the ways that such new loyalties can replace lost or broken family ties. How does Willie learn to trust his coach? How are the kids impressed equally by the coach's toughness and his sensitivity?
- In theaters: September 15, 2006
- On DVD or streaming: January 16, 2007
- Cast: Dwayne The Rock Johnson, Jade Yorker
- Director: Phil Joanou
- Studio: Columbia Tristar
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 120 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some startling scenes of violence, mature thematic material and language.
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