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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
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What's the story?
IN SEARCH OF GREATNESS explores the "nature" and "nurture" components that work together to create athletic genius. Featuring interviews with hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky, football champ Jerry Rice, soccer icon Pele, education expert Sir Ken Robinson, and sports author David Epstein -- as well as the stories of other sports and creative legends -- the documentary outlines the commonalities of the masters who changed their sport with passion, dedication, and innovation.
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the athletes featured in or interviewed for In Search of Greatness persevered to achieve champion status. What obstacles or adversity did they have to overcome? How did they turn their difficulties into a winning advantage?
What do you think the movie's message is? What will you take away? Did anything surprise you?
What do you think the meaning of this statement is: "If you are doing it for a result in the future, you are not doing it." What role does passion play in success -- both athletic and otherwise?
Why are Gretzky, Rice, and Pele considered great role models?
- In theaters: November 2, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: May 7, 2019
- Cast: Wayne Gretzky, Pele, Jerry Rice
- Director: Gabe Polsky
- Studio: AOS
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Great Boy Role Models
- Character strengths: Perseverance
- Run time: 80 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: brief language and some partial nudity
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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