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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Overcomer is a faith-based sports drama from Christian filmmaker Alex Kendrick, who also stars. The story's central theme is forgiveness, which is demonstrated on many levels -- the greatest of which is God's atonement of man's sins through Jesus' death and resurrection. Other themes include compassion, humility, and communication. The movie's purpose is evangelical, and a student who feels tormented by her parents' poor decisions finds immediate comfort once she's saved. There's no sex, swearing, or violence in this message movie, but it does deal with drug addiction: A character's past with drugs is a plot point, and there are references to a young mother who died from a drug overdose. While the casting is diverse, there are some stereotypes, like a Black family with a teen who steals, meth-addicted parents, and a father who abandons his baby. The White family, meanwhile, is depicted as pretty close to perfect and facilitates turning the Black family's life around.
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What's the story?
In OVERCOMER, high school basketball coach John Harrison (Alex Kendrick, who also directs) is reassigned to the cross-country team, which now has only one member: new girl Hannah (Aryn Wright-Thompson), who has asthma. As Coach Harrison tries to adjust to his new, minimized role, he sees something special in this new student athlete.
Is it any good?
Kendrick's work improves with every film, and he deserves his seat at the head of the faith-based film table. His latest entry is well written, well made, and well acted. Overcomer does exactly what most would expect from a Christian film: It focuses on curbing any hypocrisies in churchgoing families and demonstrates how to convert lost souls to followers of Jesus. But that doesn't mean the story unspools the way you think. It's got some surprises, including the bold move of having the well-meaning main characters do something that we all know they shouldn't. (It's almost like a horror movie: You want to shout at the screen "What are you doing? Turn around! Get out of there!")
Kendrick is no longer a newbie using church funds and members to scrape together a no-budget flick to spread God's word. Overcomer is a big studio film. But Kendrick still took on every significant role: writer, director, producer, editor, lead actor, and more. And what he didn't do went to other Kendricks (the credits are a humorous testament to either volunteerism or nepotism), so he alone gets the praise for all the things the movie does right. But he must also take responsibility for where it goes wrong. On that front, it's disappointing that the film plays up racial stereotypes: the teen thief, absentee dad, and drug-addicted mom are all Black, while the family that comes in to save the day is White and has no dysfunction. These uncomfortable representations could have been avoided if Kendrick had switched the races of the families -- but to do that, "White American male" Kendrick (as he identifies himself in the movie) would have had to cast someone besides himself as the lead. Kendrick has grown as an actor, and he does a fine job, but not in a way that owns the role -- plenty of other actors could have delivered a performance as good or better. The movie is about identity, and to that end, perpetuating negative clichés about minorities is harmful. So, the film's big question should go back to the filmmaker: Who are you -- and is vanity getting in the way of your purpose?
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the power of forgiveness. Why should we forgive someone? Who benefits the most from forgiveness: the person who grants it or the person who receives it?
A scene shows a couple resolving a fight. Discuss their communication skills: What do you think they did right? Why do you think it escalated into an argument?
Did you notice any stereotyping in the film? If so, how did that make you feel?
Unexpected and unwanted circumstances cause several of the characters to find humility. What does this mean? How is being humble important to successful relationships?
How do the Harrisons demonstrate compassion in Overcomer? Why is that an important trait?
- In theaters: August 23, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: December 17, 2019
- Cast: Alex Kendrick, Aryn Wright-Thompson, Shari Rigby
- Director: Alex Kendrick
- Studio: Affirm Films
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, High School
- Character strengths: Communication, Compassion, Humility
- Run time: 119 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements
- Last updated: December 16, 2019
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