Focused look at soccer's G.O.A.T.; violence, language.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Pele is a documentary about the career of arguably the greatest soccer player of all time. The film covers his meteoric impact on soccer and its globalization, his personal triumphs and achievements, and his potential failures as a father and a husband. A decent amount of the film also covers the Brazilian Military coup and takeover of the government in 1964 by propagating a lie that Brazil was becoming more communist. The government ultimately committed crimes against humanity, used torture chambers, removed the right of habeas corpus, and arrested people without cause. Scenes and footage show civilians clashing with military police, and many scenes show people hurt, needing help, and in pain. Meanwhile, Pele focused on his soccer and playing for Santos (his domestic club team) and the Brazilian national team. Some time is devoted to questioning whether Pele should've done more during this period to speak out against his government's atrocities. Mainly the docu traces Pele's significant goals, performances in World Cups (most importantly in 1958, '62, and '70), and career achievements. Some time is also given to his struggles with infidelity and dealing with fame at an early age. Strong language includes "f--k," "s--t," and "damn."
Great movie!! I strongly advise watching it!!
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What's the Story?
In PELE, the career of the greatest soccer player of all time is examined. From the early age of 16, Pele hit the soccer world explosively. The only player to win 3 World Cups, Pele remains the leading all-time scorer for his club Santos and the Brazil national team. Framed through the timeline of 4 World Cups from 1958 to 1970, Pele reminisces and narrates specific games and moments. Plenty of Pele's teammates also contribute their memories and experiences. The film also covers the Brazilian political landscape during that period and the brutal dictatorship of General Emilio Garrastadzu Medici's Brazilian Military Government and how it terrorized the nation.
Is It Any Good?
While Pele's career and achievements are celebrated, the film doesn't quite know how to frame Pele against Brazil's political turmoil that led to a brutal dictatorship. On one hand, Pele wants to definitively enshrine Pele as the greatest of all-time, a determination that many already agree with. The film covers how Pele became a symbol for an emerging modern Brazil. He brought belief and a sense of self worth to Brazilians. But on the other hand, the film rightly wishes to question Pele's behavior and actions during the reign of the Brazilian Military Government. In the film, Pele admits to being aware of everything, but he also states that they (the soccer players) never knew, really, what was true and what was rumor. And Pele states that he just tried to stay out of it and focus on soccer. A few journalists also suggest that if you haven't lived in and through a dictatorship, you shouldn't comment on what Pele was going through. One journalist suggests that Pele very well knew that if he spoke out against his government, there was a good chance he'd end up tortured, in jail, or dead. Other superstars ignoring societal ills have the leisure of speaking out without those particularly horrifying consequences.
The soccer Pele covers and historicizes, however, is wonderful. There is so much great footage of Pele during his early years, height of dominance, and later career triumphs, like the 1970 World Cup that he almost didn't play in. For the pure soccer fans, expect a definitive reminder of why Pele is considered the greatest of all time. He was unquestionably unparalleled in ability and produced staggering numbers. He was a confounding dribbler, passer of the ball, and reader of the game, able to predict body movements and ball trajectories quicker and better than anyone else. Many managers feared his brain as much as his lethal feet. Also evident is the sheer power of Pele, his bursts of speed and penetration of defenses, and his blistering shot (his last goal was a 30-yard free kick for the New York Cosmos). Of course, lots of Pele's dribbles, assists, and goals are shown, and the narrations and commentary of particularly famous World Cup games provided by Pele and his teammates are thrilling. For fans of soccer or Pele, Pele is a highly recommended. Non-soccer fans may get less mileage.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about soccer and sports in film and documentaries. What other films does Pele remind you of?
Discuss becoming famous at such a young age. How do you think Pele coped with the pressure of representing a nation and its move into modernity? Would you have done anything differently?
How do you think the documentary handles the question of Pele not doing more to speak out against the brutal policies and behaviors of the Brazilian Military Government? Do you feel Pele should be let off the hook or criticized for this period? Why?
- On DVD or streaming: February 23, 2021
- Cast: Pele, Amarildo, Mengalvio Pedro Figueiro, Jose Macia
- Directors: Ben Nicholas, David Tryhorn
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, History
- Run time: 108 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: January 10, 2023
Our Editors Recommend
Pele: Birth of a Legend
Biopic may be fun for soccer fans, but it's too formulaic.
Diego Maradona (2019)
Documentary about troubled soccer player has drug use.
Next Goal Wins
Captivating, moving sports docu; some swearing.
For kids who love sports
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