Parents' Guide to

Raising the Bar

By Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 8+

Teen gymnast faces pressure, cyberbullying in sports drama.

Movie NR 2016 93 minutes
Raising the Bar Poster Image

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This is about as routine a movie about competitive sport as they make. Berglund is an attractive heroine and her dance training certainly helps during transitions when the action cuts from close-ups of her to long shots of body double Australian Olympic gymnast Larissa Miller, performing the more difficult routines. But the cuts between actual gymnasts and the actors playing gymnasts are inept. To disguise the body doubles, the filmmakers shoot floor routines from directly above, so not only are faces hidden but so is the magic of the spectacular athleticism. For bar routines, the camera focuses on the equipment, mostly catching hands interacting with the bars. It's disorienting to watch the sport this way, analogous to recording a tennis match by only aiming the camera at hands holding racquets.

None of the girls in Raising the Bar look like competitive gymnasts, who are generally compact and muscular, a body type better designed for leaping, tumbling, and twirling through the air. This isn't to say that other body types couldn't be good gymnasts, but this movie is unconvincingly about an "elite" team. Another rub is that although the negative influences of competitive envy are explored here, nowhere does the movie address mental and physical health issues that female gymnasts can face, including overtraining injuries (gymnastics has one of the highest injury rates in girls' sports), bulimia, and body image problems. The pressure to stay small in gymnastics can lead to eating disorders and stunted growth. The good news is that a cyberbully is reprimanded.

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