What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that although the content in this inspirational sports drama is fairly mild -- the hero parties a lot and sleeps with a string of women in the beginning but eventually transforms his life -- it won't be interesting to most kids and tweens. It's better suited to teens who are prone to thinking about self discovery and analysis. The somewhat-New Agey tale is based on a true story and deals with big issues like inner emptiness and the meaning of life -- not exactly light entertainment.
What's the story?
In the college town of Berkeley, Calif., star gymnast Dan Millman (Scott Mechlowicz) is popular with his teammates and the co-eds. He's earned a reputation for arrogance, but beneath his cocky exterior Dan has nightmares that are symptomatic of feeling driven, fearful, and unhappy. One night at a gas station, Dan meets a silver-haired attendant (Nick Nolte) who seems to see right through to the young man's insecurities -- and then proceeds to astound Dan with a feat of superhuman agility. The younger athlete later returns to the station hoping to learn the old man's secrets. "Socrates" becomes a gruff guru to the kid, making Dan do menial chores and lecturing him about how to be a "warrior" in life -- less in the fighting sense than in achieving a state of being completely aware, attuned, present, and undistracted at every moment. Dan proves to be an impatient student and stops visiting Socrates out of frustration with his slow progress and his eccentric mentor's sometimes-infuriating behavior. But when Dan suffers a potential career-ending injury, he must call upon Socrates' teachings to persevere.
Is it any good?
When you consider how often storytellers in and outside of Hollywood tend to conjure up simplistic antagonists -- aliens, drug smugglers, serial killers, vampires, orcs, hostile commie gymnasts from the USSR -- as obstacles for a flawed or uncertain hero to overcome, there's something sweetly sincere about how PEACEFUL WARRIOR sticks to self-improvement. Dan's conflict is with himself, end of story.
That said, the dialogue is often hokey and preachy, the special effects and soundtrack music work a little too hard to tell viewers things they might have figured out on their own, and the film feels long at 120 minutes. On the plus side, Nolte gives a pleasantly low-key performance as the curmudgeonly Socrates; a lot of his Obi-Wan/Yoda/Master Splinter stuff is pleasantly unpredictable. Will watching Peaceful Warrior make you a better person? That's hard to say, Grasshopper. But it probably won't make anyone worse, and that's something of an achievement.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the goal of inspirational "mentor" tales. What do movies and TV shows that follow this kind of storyline have in common? Who are they trying to reach? Why do you think so many involve sports? Families can also discuss Socrates' sometimes-mixed messages about drinking, fighting, health and discipline, and being "in the moment." A lot of these points are alluded to in other martial-arts flicks, but they're often lost in a fog of kung-fu fighting. Do you think this film's non-violent approach is more effective?