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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 this documentary covers one year in the lives of three young go-kart racing stars. Junior racers Annabeth Barnes, age 11; Josh Hobson, age 12; and senior racer Brandon Warren, age 13 all are significant contenders in a five-race series over one season that determines the national WKA (World Karting Association) champions. Racing Dreams, winner of multiple film festival awards, takes in much more than the preparation and races. The families, the culture, the individual work ethics, and the kids' activities outside of racing are explored. Audiences will get to know Annabeth, Josh, and Brandon, root for them, and come to understand what propels them to succeed. One of the boys struggles with family issues (including parental addictions and abandonment), but his loving grandparents strive to give his life balance and security. Dozens of sports-affiliated products and brands are recognizable on clothing, go-karts, cars, banners, and so on throughout the film.
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What's the story?
Filmmaker Marshall Curry takes his audience on a year-long odyssey with three young kids as they vie for championships in the World Karting Association's five-race national competition. RACING DREAMS introduces the three -- 11-year-old Annabeth, 12-year-old Josh, and 13-year-old Brandon -- and their families as they prepare, race, and then celebrate their many successes. Daily life in each of the three households is distinctive. Two live in southern states, one is from the Midwest. The kids and their families exhibit differing lifestyles, goals, and attitudes about their involvement. The unifying factors: commitment, sacrifice, passion, and hard work. Brandon, the "senior" member of the group, faces the most challenges; his family background has made racing a key element in his general behavior and survival. The director and his team make a concerted effort to provide full portraits of the children and their individual worlds, as well as providing exciting, suspenseful moments during the five races.
Is it any good?
It's rare to find a documentary that will appeal, hold the interest of, and inspire older kids and teens as well as adults. Racing Dreams, with its emphasis on the personalities as well as the sport, is a fine exception. It's not necessary to be a racing fan to appreciate the movie; the kids are fun to watch, and it's exciting to root for them. Their parents are candid, surprisingly willing to share their private thoughts and struggles and to let the audience in on what it takes to nurture these budding heroes. An honest depiction of Brandon's dad, who's battling his personal demons, provides the saddest moments in the film, but Mr. Curry simply lets it play and doesn't dwell on or show anything explicitly disturbing. It's a relatable film, which gives kids a chance to meet some exceptional junior racers and get acquainted with the small but devoted culture of the youngest NASCAR fans.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the takeaway from this movie. How did what you saw in Racing Dreams inspire or influence you? How did this documentary expand your understanding of a culture that may be different from your own?
Midway through the movie, Annabeth rethinks her commitment to racing. What factors do you think influenced her? Do you think the filmmakers showed both sides of the issue clearly? Did you agree with her decision?
Although Annabeth, Josh, and Brandon are unique, what qualities do they share? What qualities do their families share? Which of these qualities do you think are essential for success in sports or any other endeavor?
- In theaters: May 21, 2010
- On DVD or streaming: November 1, 2010
- Cast: Annabeth Barnes, Josh Hobson, Brandon Warren
- Director: Marshall Curry
- Studio: Marshall Curry Productions
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Cars and Trucks, Sports and Martial Arts
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements and some language
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