A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Teamwork and perseverance are major themes. Kids can do a whole lot more than they think, and definitely a whole lot more than most adults are willing to let them do. In this documentary, a class of 10 high school juniors in rural North Carolina, design and build a new farmers market for their town. It's a big project, and the manage to pull it off. In the process, they discover their own capabilities. Additional themes are compassion and empathy.
Positive Role Models
Emily and Matt, the two educators at the center of this documentary, make huge sacrifices to help the kids in their class. The focus of the task is to teach the students how to design and build things, but the real point is to help the young people learn that they have the power, and the abilities, to plan and execute real things.
Violence & Scariness
Some mild bickering.
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"Dangit" and "piss off" are about the roughest epithets heard here.
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Products & Purchases
Some consumer brands make brief appearances, including Pabst Blue Ribbon and Subway sandwiches.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A few scenes show adults drinking beer while they relax and one person mentions once his desire to "have a few beers" at the end of the day.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that If You Build It is an inspiring documentary that shows just what can happen if you empower young people. Teen viewers will see admirable role models in the educators who persevere against challenging odds to bring a special program to high school kids. They will also see teens like themselves accomplish a lot when given the opportunity. There are a few scenes that show the adults drinking beer, but there's no swearing, smoking, drugs, violence or sex. This a film that almost any teen would benefit from seeing. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This documentary is neither flashy nor action-packed, but its subject matter -- how to inspire kids in a town that the economy seemingly forgot -- is enormously appealing. Pilloton and Miller are fascinating subjects, altruistic and optimistic and desperate to make a change, and as such, they're interesting to watch.
When monkey wrenches are thrown their way, however, we don't always get a clear picture as to why they persist. Their plan is heartily endorsed by the superintendent of schools, but he's ousted early in the film and it's not clear why. Several local residents appear onscreen to laud Project H, but nobody ever explains why the school board is so dubious about it. No matter, there's plenty of inspiring stuff going on to interest viewers, including students who, through the class, identify a much-needed life direction. It's uplifting to watch the teens in If You Build It as they slowly begin to realize that not only are they capable of great things, they are actually going to create something wonderful.
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.
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