A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Maintaining integrity is important if you want to be true to yourself. It's possible to forgive terrible behavior, but probably not advisable to forget it. Many of us are products of our environments and cannot shake bad habits we’ve developed.
Positive Role Models
Jesus has an admirable work ethic and refuses to cheat, even when money, cars, and women are offered. Many people in his life betray him and want to cash in on the offers he's receiving. Jesus represents a great positive role model, in contrast to the many depictions of young Black men in American media.
Violence & Scariness
A father with a temper and alcohol issues taunts and hits his young son, supposedly to make him a tougher competitor, but it closes the boy's heart to the dad. A man with impulse control issues violently pushes his wife away as she tries to protect their child and she's accidentally killed. A gun is pointed at a prisoner. A man punches strangers he doesn't like. A woman is beaten by her pimp.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Men and women have sex. Breasts are shown. Sex is discussed using graphic language. A man has a relationship with a prostitute. Prostitutes are seen on the street soliciting customers in cars. A college provides prostitutes to a top high school basketball pick to entice him to attend that school, and he has sex with them. References are made to homosexuality, particularly in prison. Women are largely portrayed as whores, sex objects, or betrayers. Men are shown as gentle and loyal and women are scheming seductresses with ulterior motives. Condoms, abortions, and STDs are mentioned.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
"F--k," "s--t," "ass," "p---y," "d--k," the "N" word, "f-ggot," "scumbag," "ho," "bitch," "balls," and "poontang."
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Products & Purchases
The movie discusses the financial exploitation of student athletes, many of them Black, who make money for institutions and individuals, many of them white-dominated, often without getting much in return.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Drug use -- cocaine, crack, crystal meth -- is discussed and shown in montage. A man accidentally kills someone when he's drunk.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that He Got Game is Spike Lee's 1998 exploration of the pressures placed on a fictional number-one high school basketball pick as colleges and NBA coaches line up to offer money, women, and cars. A dad with impulse control issues tries to get back into the life of the talented son who rejected him long ago. Corruption in high school and college sports is shown, as well as graphic sexual scenes with bared breasts, depictions of drug use, violence, and manslaughter. Women are largely portrayed as whores, sex objects, or betrayers. Condoms, abortions, and STDs are mentioned; prostitution plays a large role in the movie. The predominating subtext is the exploitation of Black athletes, and also the circumstances from which they often come -- deprived neighborhoods and schools, broken families -- in some cases caused by racism. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "ass," "p---y," "d--k," the "N" word, "f-ggot," "scumbag," "ho," "bitch," "balls," and "poontang." Drug use -- cocaine, crack, crystal meth -- is discussed and shown in montage. A man accidentally kills someone when he's drunk. Denzel Washington co-stars. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
There's much to appreciate in this film, but it's not one of the great director Spike Lee's best by a long shot. Allen, in his first role, and Washington are both fine, but more important, Lee's love of basketball is unmistakable, as is his admiration for those who dedicate themselves to mastering the game. And Lee's eyes are open to the exploitation of talented players, especially those from lower-income backgrounds who look to sports as a way out of poverty. Many insights are true and powerful, but scenes go on far too long, with some subplots completely unnecessary, and characters make agonizingly bad choices in ways that don't advance the plot at all.
As for rooting He Got Game in realism, Jesus never spends a moment going over the pros and cons of any particular college even though he still hasn't decided just days before that decision is due. These missteps make the movie difficult and even cringe-inducing to watch at times, but the opening is flawless -- a sequence set to Aaron Copland's music shows an array of young players sweating on courts in good neighborhoods and bad, honing their skills, a tribute to the purity of the game. That creative, economic simplicity is missing from the rest of the film. A few judicious cuts could have made this far more moving and effective.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.