Parents' Guide to

On Thin Ice

By Brian Costello, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 12+

Inspiring docu on athletes who have faced prejudice.

Movie NR 2019 75 minutes
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This is clearly an earnest documentary about prejudice and discrimination, in all its forms, during the last hundred years in sports. On Thin Ice shows how far sports have come since champion speed skaters were denied the chance to compete on the U.S. team in the 1932 Olympics because they were Jewish, and also shows that the fight for equality still has progress to be made. For instance, the documentary shows how far Michael Sam fell in the NFL draft when he came out as a gay player, and the shocking statistic that only 4% of all sports programming is dedicated to female athletes. It also interviews former NFL punter Chris Kluwe, who talks of how his outspoken support of same-sex marriage led to him being cut by the Minnesota Vikings.

While it's a documentary that can't be anything but inspiring, it's also a documentary lacking in a coherent focus. One gets the feeling that the original idea was to make a documentary about Jack Brooks -- the speed skater who was excluded from the U.S. Olympic Team because he was Jewish -- but there wasn't enough material to make it a full-length feature, and so Brooks' story bookends a documentary that tries to go everywhere at once and, in doing so, becomes too much for one feature-length documentary. Also, in case the audience is unsure how they should be feeling about the trials and triumphs these athletes have experienced while fighting against prejudice in all forms, there's a near-constant soundtrack of the kind of uplifting music heard in the climaxes of every "underdog/comeback kid" movie ever made. None of this makes the overarching message less important and worthwhile, but it does get in the way, and prevents a good documentary from being a great documentary.

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