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Pele: Birth of a Legend
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: Birth of a Legend focuses on the childhood and early career of the famed Brazilian soccer star, who's often called the greatest of all time. Shot entirely in Pele's homeland, the movie is an American-produced biopic that explains how he brought his country's unique playing style to the world stage. It's a rags-to-riches story with lots of on-the-field action that will be fun for tween soccer fans and up (even if the story isn't that surprising). There's a little bit of language (along the lines of "damn") and smoking, as well as some bullying and a tragic accident that impacts the main character. But there's also plenty of wholesome athletic joy.
- Parents say
- Kids say
When I watched this movie, I was encouraged because not only did Pele do it for himself but he did it for his people and his country. Pele inspired me because if it weren't for him I don't think I would learn to care about others before myself. To the directors of this movie, you brought a great lesson to me because putting others before yourself can feature nice and good things they will repay you with.
What's the story?
At the 1958 World Cup, Brazilian soccer phenomenon Pele was just a 17-year-old kid, untested and a newcomer to the global soccer elite. As PELE: BIRTH OF A LEGEND shows, he was clearly ready, scoring goal after goal and helping lead the team to victory while showcasing the grace and style of his country's unique playing style. The film starts with Pele's childhood: He grew up in poverty while wealthier kids teased him for playing barefoot and coaches (including Vincent D'Onofrio as the head of the national team) tried to make him play according to a more traditional, European-focused technique. But as he matured as a player, Pele (Kevin de Paula) eventually made his teammates and coaches realize that their Brazilian heritage and specialized techniques are to be celebrated, not muted -- and that's what helps them win on the world stage.
Is it any good?
Pele was a true soccer phenomenon, a joy to watch on the field -- and this movie brings some of that excitement to the screen. Watching Pele move the ball -- really, it looks more like he's dancing with it -- is perhaps the best part of the movie. But off the field, the story, as told on screen, becomes less vibrant, even though the real-life Pele overcame great adversity, faced down the doubters, and showed everyone what he had.
Like the staid techniques Pele struggled to break free of, PELE BIRTH OF A LEGEND feels far too predictable at times as it moves through the standard formula of a rising star no one saw coming. Even the action scenes aren't as good as they could be -- they tend to focus very tightly on the athlete's body, making it hard to see his most acrobatic moves. Young soccer players may find the story inspiring, but for most viewers it will probably feel formulaic.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about sports movies. How does Pele: Birth of a Legend compare to other films about real-life sports heroes? Do they follow a certain formula? Is that OK?
Did the on-field scenes give you a sense of Pele's unusual style? Do the filmmakers do a good job of showing viewers what he's doing that's so special and different?
When does competition cross over into something destructive? Is trash-talking on the field akin to bullying?
- In theaters: May 6, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: September 20, 2016
- Cast: Vincent D'Onofrio, Rodrigo Santoro, Diego Boneta, Kevin de Paula
- Directors: Jeff Zimbalist, Michael Zimbalist
- Studio: IFC Films
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts
- Run time: 107 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements, some smoking and language
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.