A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Offers lessons in sporting conduct, hard work, perseverance.
Having unstructured time to create, innovate your game is key to success. You have to love your sport/talent to truly excel at it; forcing kids to participate in/practice something they don't have a passion for probably won't lead to high achievement. Having a supportive parent/encouraging mentor is important to the growth of an outstanding athlete. Building blocks of greatness for athletes can also apply to other careers. Champions harness anger and frustration into motivation.
Positive Role Models
Featured athletes are superstars in their sports. They demonstrate thoughtfulness in their craft, an incredible work ethic. Examples of sports heroes who overcame physical obstacles, adversity to become masters in their field. Jerry Rice speaks of how his mother taught him importance of spreading kindness. John McEnroe's outbursts on the court are portrayed as being positive, having a positive outcome: an example of self-advocacy that led to pro tennis associations improving judging methods. Athletes in film are ethnically diverse, hail from different parts of world, but they're mostly men (tennis champs Venus and Serena Williams are the only women included).
Violence & Scariness
Film doesn't show a lot of violence on field, rink, or court. But quick clips show hockey players punching each other, a goalie taking a puck to the head. Knockouts, direct punches to face from historical boxing matches. Clip from a Bruce Lee film shows him using kung fu and stick fighting to stop attackers. Clip of Keanu Reeves dodging slo-mo bullets in The Matrix.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A man is shown dancing in the shower; his genital area is blurred out. As decorative imagery, videos made to study the musculature of athletes are shown; the model is not clothed, although there's never full-frontal nudity.
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A coach bursts into a profane tirade; all foul words are bleeped, but the "f" in "f--k" is obvious. McEnroe calls a tennis line judge a "jerk" in a hostile rage.
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Products & Purchases
Michael Jordan shows off his Air Jordans. Quick glimpses from a multitude of sporting events are shown, with brands used by or sponsoring teams seen in the background (like a Nike swoop on a sweatband or a DraftKings banner on the side of a rink).
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Two coaches are shown smoking in historical clips; one smokes a cigar.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that In Search of Greatness is a sports documentary that examines what -- beyond physical factors -- goes into making someone a champion. The film doesn't focus on techniques, strategies, or how-tos. Rather, by sharing interviews with and stories of athletic legends (including Wayne Gretzky, Jerry Rice, Pele, and more), the movie looks at what kind of training environment cultivates success. The greatest takeaway is that passion, perseverance, and parents play key roles. For a documentary that examines the world of sports at the highest level, iffy content like sex, drinking, drugs, branding, and profanity are barely present. There's a tiny bit of nongraphic, nonsexual nudity; a bleeped-out tirade from a coach; historical smoking; and quick clips that show some sporting violence (punches, martial arts, a puck to the head, etc.). While there's nothing so inappropriate that you should worry about younger kids in the room, the film is mostly a discussion among adults, which may not appeal to all elementary-age kids. But if there was ever an explainer for parents on how to raise a champ, this is it. 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 a riveting, perceptive look at how a champion goes beyond good to become great. Coaches, sports fans, and hopeful athletes will definitely lean in, but since the theories discussed here apply to achieving excellence in all areas, it's just as captivating to non-sports enthusiasts. But the audience that this film may appeal to the most is parents: What mom or dad hasn't seen a spark in their child and wondered whether he or she has what it takes to be the next Michael Jordan, John Lennon, or Meryl Streep -- and then wondered what to do to encourage it. By highlighting stories about the best of the best, along with scientific and analytical research, the film provides answers that are immensely insightful and satisfying.
Stylistically, In Search of Greatness is simple and straightforward, almost like a thesis paper. It begins by dismissing the current "combine method" of athletic evaluation through statistics: speed, strength, mobility, etc. Then it launches into its core theory: Genius is a byproduct of many things but includes an element that's quickly disappearing: unstructured play. While this assertion might seem like common sense -- free time lets you explore, create, and ultimately innovate solutions that can lead to a winning advantage -- it comes off as revelatory. From there, the film moves through bullet-point assertions, proving each notion (e.g., don't force your kids to practice if they don't have passion for something) by pointing to examples and experts who back it up. The film does have a void: It ignores the sports in which athletically inclined genetics and hard work really can overcome all, such as swimming and track. But this film is really for those who want to know how the greats overcame the odds to dominate, and those questions are answered.
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.