Parents' Guide to

National Champions

By Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Talky football drama falls short on action; language, sex.

Movie R 2021 116 minutes
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Sorry, football fans: It's all talk and no pigskin in this debate-sparking sports drama. It's true that many of the greatest sports films are more about the characters' heart, emotion, and struggle than they are about the actual competition. But director Ric Roman Waugh punts on delivering any athletic payoff here -- there's zero game play. This examination of whether student athletes should be paid for putting their bodies on the line in exchange for scholarships and training to compete for lucrative professional contracts is all about the legal strategies involved in trying to get the other side to play (figurative) ball.

Executive produced by NFL star Russell Wilson, the film's argument for why college football players should be compensated is well covered, even comparing the current system to modern enslavement (it posits that student athletes risk injury for "free" in hopes of getting one of the few pro spots, while coaches, colleges, and the NCAA rake in billions of dollars). In one passionate but brief speech, the other side's perspective is presented; it has impact, but it doesn't offer a full picture. Combined with poor audio quality drowning in a bass-thumping score and perhaps the worst rallying speech given by a coach in sports film history, National Champions feels more like a how-to guide meant to prod top-level student athletes into action than it does entertainment.

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