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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that If I Had Wings is an uplifting sports story about a blind teen and his troubled classmate, both of whom must overcome severe obstacles to find their best selves and succeed as cross-country runners. Though the outcome is predictable and several of the interim challenges are easily resolved, kids and families who like underdog stories will have strong interest in the characters. Bullies play an important part, and it's quite clear here that their behavior comes from both fear and envy. The mean-spirited boys attack the heroes, fighting and/or taunting, in scenes that may disturb some younger or more sensitive viewers, although no one is injured. The victims of the bullies learn to handle their tormentors with skill. A sprinkling of coarse language ("butt," "ass") occurs, and there are some brief boy-girl flirtations. A running sub-story shows an overweight dad struggling with himself and his wife about his eating habits. This Canadian production refers to "First Nations" people; they are represented as multidimensional characters subject to racism.
What's the story?
Alex (Richard Harmon) is determined to run on his high school's cross-country team in IF I HAD WINGS. Though his dad, Geoff (Craig Bierko), has been encouraging him, Alex's mom, Sandy (Jill Hennessy), is more protective of her blind son and thinks it's asking too much of him. Alex strongly disagrees. The cross-country coach agrees with Sandy but relents when Geoff, a probation officer for teens, proposes that Alex team with Brad, a boy who can't seem to keep out of trouble but is amazingly skilled at running. At least, that's what all the police officers who've been chasing him say. So a bargain is struck. Brad will train and run with Alex. Wary at first, Alex and Brad begin to work together. Their relationship is strengthened when the two must stand together against a team member who's intimidated by their abilities and strikes out against them. Challenges mount when misunderstandings and trust issues threaten to destroy the fragile bond Alex and Brad are developing. By the film's climax, everybody has grown and learned from this unusual partnership.
Is it any good?
No surprises here: Characters learn what they're supposed to learn, alter their behavior on time and as required, and the results are exactly as expected in inspirational sports films. But the performances are strong; messages are clear and earnest; and the film is well-executed by what appears to be the entire Harmon family. Dad, Allan, is the director; son Richard and daughter Jessica play major roles; Mom, Cindy, produces, among other responsibilities. The scenes directly related to cross-country running feel less than authentic, and though that would be a plus, it doesn't change the overall impact of the story. Older kids, tweens, and teens, will probably recognize the derivative nature of the story but enjoy If I Had Wings anyway.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the many kinds of challenges people face. Alex's blindness is an obvious obstacle for a cross-country runner. What are the individual challenges for each of these characters in If I Had Wings: Alex's dad, Brad, Brad's dad, Alex's mom, Julie?
Find out more about cross-country running. How is that sport different from track and field? Which separate skills does it require?
How did Alex and Brad handle Tyson's bullying? Do you think Tyson learned anything from his experience, or do you think the character would continue to bully? In that sense, who was the more "blind" of the two boys: Alex or Tyson?
What should you do if you see or experience bullying?
- On DVD or streaming: June 12, 2015
- Cast: Richard Harmon, Jaren Brandt Bartlett, Jill Hennessy
- Director: Allan Harmon
- Studios: Really Real Films, Two 4 The Money Media
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character Strengths: Compassion, Empathy, Teamwork
- Run time: 89 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements, including bullying, and for language and some suggestive material
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