Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
Screwball Movie Poster Image
Docu about MLB doping scandal has profanity, drugs.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 105 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

If you are rich and famous enough, you can get away with breaking the law. The management of Major League Baseball is corrupt. Sketchy people go to Florida to reinvent their lives. "Fraud is the unofficial state business of Florida." Law enforcement doesn't enforce all laws equally. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Although they were in fact using testosterone, human growth hormone, and other performance-enhancing drugs, numerous Big League baseball players publicly denied such behaviors. Even after being caught using, Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez continued his denials and filed an appeal to dismiss his suspension. Neither Rodriguez nor Tony Bosch, the prescribing fake doctor, show any remorse. Lots of shady characters are involved, leading some to worry about their own safety.  


A whistleblower fears for his life from a number of shady characters. State's evidence is stolen from the car of a whistleblower by his friends.


Women in bikinis are pictured. A woman in a photo is nude but strategically-placed baseballs cover her private parts.


"F--k," "s--t," "pissed," "penis," "butt," "ass," and "scumbag."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Professional baseball players used performance-enhancing drugs to improve their stats, hit more home runs, and earn more money. A key participant might have gotten away with his crimes had he not spent $6,000 a month on his cocaine habit. Doctors wrote so many prescriptions for testosterone that the legal supply was depleted and providers had to turn to black market sources. One man involved drinks heavily.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Screwball is a documentary about the doping scandal that enveloped Major League Baseball's star Alex Rodriguez and other pro players, in addition to lawyers, cops, doctors, and college and high school athletes. A whistleblower fears for his life from a number of shady characters. A woman in a photo is nude but strategically-placed baseballs cover her private parts. The filmmaker tells the story through interviews with principal characters and through reenactments of scenes described in the interviews. Payoffs, bribes, illicit drugs, cocaine use, black market testosterone and other anabolic steroids, obsessive spray-tanning, heavy-duty partying, and alcohol use are all referenced, but given the childish behavior of many of the participants, the director chose to cast 8-to-10-year-olds in the re-enactments, leaving kids to lip sync curse words that include "f--k," "s--t," and "ass."  Despite the juvenile casting, and the picture of a young boy on the advertising, the movie is suitable only for older teens.

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What's the story?

In SCREWBALL, the highest-paid baseball player in history and the multi-million-dollar South Florida doping support system that supplied him were brought down over a $4,000 debt owed by a fake doctor to a gullible, spray-tanning-obsessed hanger on. Yes, Screwball is a documentary, but given the circumstances, it's almost by necessity also a comedy. Famous ball players flock to unlicensed physician Tony Bosch, who has a nutrition, weight-loss, and anti-aging "practice" through which he dispenses human growth hormone, testosterone, and other performance-enhancing drugs while wearing a white lab coat labeled "Dr. Tony Bosch." He devises micro-dosing protocols designed to avoid detection by Major League Baseball (MLB) drug tests. Lawyers, doctors, high school students, and cops are also among his large clientele. He travels with slugger Alex Rodriguez, injecting him in gas stations and other hidden spots, until he tests positive. Miraculously, ARod gets a wrist slap suspension and the story is swept mostly under the rug, until ARod appeals his suspension, pays to get his hands on evidence against him, which is when MLB starts throwing bribe money around, and Bosch, spending $6,000 a month on cocaine, goes on 60 Minutes and arouses the attentions of federal drug agents. Note that owing to the childishness of the cast of characters, the director was inspired to hire 8-to-10-year-olds to reenact scenes described in the interviewees' voices. The actors lip sync to colorful adult language that includes "f--k," "s--t." and "ass." Note that Bosch was indicted by the feds on charges related to delivering illegal enhancement drugs to minors, the high school athletes whose parents brought them to Bosch for that extra performance edge.

Is it any good?

This movie might just as well be called "Comedy of Errors," and director Corben cleverly infuses the movie with the slapstick tone of the jokers who populate this story. Screwball opens with a Latin-beat rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," referencing ballplayers of Cuban extraction who were among Bosch's doping clients. Ironically, ARod had approached Corben to make a documentary about him. Corben was later also approached by the doping "doctor," Bosch, for the same self-glorifying reason. Neither project panned out but the material proved irresistible, leading Corben to attack it with a satisfying absurdist bent. Older teens, especially athletes, may find the whole story both entertaining and disturbing.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why people are motivated to cheat. Do you think professional athletes who doped, including Rodriguez, wanted to dodge declining performance of natural aging? Do you think it's okay to turn to drugs to enhance performance or should hard work and talent determine achievement?

  • What message do you think pro athletes send to kids when they cheat? What point does Screwball make about cheating?

  • Parents brought their high school athlete children to get them performance-enhancing drugs. Do you think teens would use such drugs if they didn't know that pros were already using them?

Movie details

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