A lot or a little?
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Safety handles mature topics, including drug addiction and unreliable parents, but is ultimately very inspiring and appropriate for older tweens. A mom with a substance dependency takes her kids' money and then spends time in prison and rehab. Her 11-year-old son, Fay (Thaddeus J. Mixson), ends up in foster care. Another mother and child are shown crying as they're torn apart by a foster-care representative. When Fay's older brother, Ray (Jay Reeves), takes him in, he discovers how hard things have been for Fay and that he's years behind in school. The film shows the devastating impact of poverty and drugs, and there's some emotional intensity, including scenes where Ray loses his temper with Fay or when their mother breaks down in tears. Ray, a talented college athlete, wants to step up to give Fay a home and become the role model his brother needs, but he puts his own future on the line to do so. His coaches, teammates, girlfriend, and community help him, showing the value of teamwork and the joy and loyalty of friendship. Language includes "damn," "dope," "pee," and "hell"; violence is mostly limited to the football field. College students drink out of red plastic cups at a party.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In SAFETY, Ray (Jay Reeves) is a dedicated student and athlete who faced challenges while growing up -- a mom with a drug dependency, a dad who wasn't around -- but went on to earn a university scholarship. Already overwhelmed buy the demands of college life, including a full class load, punishing football practices, and a potential love interest (Corinne Foxx), Ray then finds out that his 11-year-old brother, Fahmarr, who goes by Fay (Thaddeus J. Mixson), is hanging out with drug dealers. Ray rushes home, where he discovers that his mother, Tonya (Amanda Warren), is in prison for drug possession and that Fay needs a caregiver. Ray sneaks Fay into his dorm room and plans to hide him there for a month until Tonya is released. But his plans are foiled when Fay is discovered, and Ray is called out for breaking campus rules, jeopardizing his position on the team -- and thus his scholarship. When Tonya gets a spot in a rehab center, Ray realizes that Fay will need longer-term care. To manage that, Ray is going to need a lot of assistance himself.
Is it any good?
Though this biopic gets off to a slightly uneven start, it gathers pace and emotion quickly and is ultimately an inspiring story with wide appeal. The opening introduces Ray -- and viewers -- to college life and the cutthroat climate of university athletics. There's a somewhat perfunctory TV-movie-ness to that opening act, and some of the early scenes also feel clipped unnecessarily, as if the director was trying to squeeze too much in and still hit the two-hour mark. Since it's a Disney film, Safety also depicts the tough culture of football with no heavy swearing -- and a budding college romance without a single kiss.
Things definitely pick up when Ray takes in little brother Fay. Mixson plays Fay with a winning combination of fragility and confidence, offering a great counterpart to Reeves and Foxx's solid performances. Fay's story is also smartly developed in tandem to Ray's with character-specific scenes. When the film pivots away from football and college and toward the story of the two brothers, and especially Fay, it transforms into a stirring tale of family, fatherhood, teamwork, and overcoming significant challenges.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the circumstances of Ray and Fay's childhood in Safety. How does the movie portray the impact of poverty and drugs?
How do the characters demonstrate teamwork and loyalty? How does teamwork benefit individuals?
There's one scene during a football game where the camera is inside Ray's helmet, and we can hear his breathing. What effect did this camera placement have for you as a viewer?
This film is based on a true story. How accurate do you think it is? Why might filmmakers change the facts in a movie based on real life? Where could you go to find more information about the real brothers?
- On DVD or streaming: December 11, 2020
- Cast: Jay Reeves, Thaddeus J. Mixson, Corinne Fox
- Director: Reginald Hudlin
- Studio: Disney+
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models
- Character strengths: Teamwork
- Run time: 120 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic content involving drug addiction, and some language
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: September 8, 2021
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