Most Valuable Players

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Most Valuable Players Movie Poster Image
Moving, engaging docu about high school musical theater.
  • NR
  • 2010
  • 96 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Promotes the joy of participating in musical theater. Validates positive traits such as teamwork, commitment, and striving for excellence that are integral to performance. Courage, integrity, and perseverance are additional themes. Suggests that although sports are the primary focus of most high school extracurricular activities (and funding), other programs are meaningful and worthwhile. Stresses that winning -- in this case, a musical-theater awards competition -- is less important than the actual participation, performance, and family-like nature of the theater itself.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The teachers in the forefront of this film reflect the devotion, generosity, and skill that the very best bring to their profession; they're educators who make a difference. The teens who participate are engaging and hardworking and strive to do well. Support personnel all contribute to the well-being of the kids who are involved. True to the demographics of the region involved, there is some ethnic diversity.

Violence
Sex

A few references to gay stereotyping in the theater culture. 

Language

Infrequent swearing and mild innuendo: "my fly was open," "maybe we're bitches," "Jesus Christ," "kick-ass," "damned," "screwed."

Consumerism

Holiday Inn, Coca-Cola. Hundreds of high school students are on camera, and some have identifiable brand names on their clothing.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Most Valuable Players, a documentary, follows three Pennsylvania and New Jersey high school musical productions from rehearsal to performance and then to a three-county awards competition. Hoping to give the arts in a high school setting the same kind of exposure as teen sporting events, the film focuses on the teachers, the kids, the schools, and the organizers of the Freddy Awards, the regional high school equivalent of Broadway's Tony Awards. Though the film emphasizes the rewards attained from participating in the production itself, as well as the teamwork and supportive family atmosphere it provides, the kids can't help but be caught up in the excitement of the locally televised, prestigious regional awards. An adult member of the Freddy Awards support staff is diagnosed with a serious illness during the filming; his medical journey becomes part of the story. Other than that, as well as some very infrequent and light profanity ("bitches," "damn," "kick-ass") and a few references to gays in the theater culture, there's nothing to worry about here. It's a film that will both engage and inform all ages about the onstage and backstage delight that is musical theater.

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What's the story?

High school musical theater is a very big deal in two counties in Pennsylvania and one county in New Jersey. Each year, 27 high schools produce musical comedies that delight their individual communities in the school auditoriums. Then, in the spring, The Freddy Awards are held to much fanfare at the State Theatre Center for the Arts in Easton, Penn. That night, an enthusiastic audience of 1,500 and a wide local television audience view the live presentation of awards, along with selected musical numbers offered by the finalists. MOST VALUABLE PLAYERS follows three of the participating schools in 2008. Interviews of the talented, charismatic kids; the devoted, effective teachers and their colleagues; and the dedicated Freddy Awards staff are intercut with scenes shot during rehearsals, performances, and the final awards ceremony.

Is it any good?

Even audiences who might not already be fans of musical theater will enjoy this heartwarming movie. It's amazing how much talent there is in Lehigh and Northhampton, Penn., and Warren, NJ. It's not only the inspiring kids who perform with effervescent heart and soul for these productions but also the teachers and the staffs of chorale directors, choreographers, costumers, and set designers. Director Matthew D. Kallis does a superb job of re-creating the excitement, camaraderie, and joy of all the participants. His stewardship, along with the work of writer Christopher Lockhart and editor Zack Braff, keeps Most Valuable Players moving, engaging, and always accessible. The unexpected illness of a key adult player in the story ups the ante for Kallis, and he takes it on with a gentle, effective hand. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about stereotypes that are sometimes associated with musical theater people (nerdy, gay, weird). In what ways, if any, did Most Valuable Players shatter those stereotypes?

  • Do you think the filmmakers were fair and gave equal exposure to the three productions they chose to explore? How did they accomplish that?

  • What are some of the qualities that kids who participate in team sports share with kids who participate in theater performance?  

  • How does Most Valuable Players promote teamwork and perseverance? What about integrity and courage? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

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For kids who love musicals

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