A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
May get kids interested in chess.
Good sportsmanship is upheld as the most positive of virtues. This virtue is also shown to be good when contrasted with the negative behavior of some parents and of some of the other young chess prodigies. The importance of following one's own destiny as opposed to copying everything about a legend in one's art, sport, pastime, or career. The importance of cultivating a child's natural talents while still giving the child time to be a kid.
Positive Role Models
As a young boy developing his genius for chess, Josh decides to think for himself rather than following in the footsteps of chess legend Bobby Fischer. Josh learns good sportsmanship, and displays it when it counts. While they occasionally go overboard in their obsessions with Josh's play, Josh's parents encourage and work to cultivate Josh's gift for playing chess; this is shown to be in marked contrast of other parents, who get angry when their kids lose at chess, seem to want to live vicariously through their kids' competitions, and never give their kids the chance to just be kids.
Rare profanity: "Jesus," "hell," damn," "ass."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Around the chess tables of a city park, a young boy sees a drug deal, joint smoking, drinking, and cigarette smoking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Searching for Bobby Fischer is a 1993 movie about the early years of chess prodigy Joshua Waitzkin. It's based on a book written by Waitzkin's father. Around the chess tables of a city park, a young boy sees a drug deal, joint smoking, drinking, and cigarette smoking. Profanity includes "Jesus," "hell," damn," and "ass." At the core of this story is a valuable lesson about sportsmanship. Josh emerges as a positive example of good sportsmanship even as so many adults around him don't. The movie also teaches valuable lessons on the importance of parents encouraging and cultivating their child's natural gifts and interests without overwhelming them or forgetting to let their kids be kids. Younger kids will enjoy seeing someone their own age intelligently portrayed, even if they don't quite grasp his particular gift or the situations it places him in. For older kids, this is one of the greatest movies around for demonstrating -- without preaching -- the value of decency and the payoff that comes from serious study. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
It takes confidence and loads of talent to make a movie about a boy who plays chess, and to make it riveting, but Steven Zaillian's directorial debut does just that. There are no clenched fists here, hardly a raised voice, and yet the movie is mesmerizing. There's a true sense of wonder in the scenes of Josh watching the chess players in the park, absorbing the intricacies of the game. That wonder is potent enough to spark an interest in young viewers, and encourage adults to take the board down from that dusty closet shelf. But an understanding of chess isn't vital to appreciating the movie, although a vague understanding does heighten the drama.
The characters, even the sideliners, are compelling, and a good streak of humor runs through the movie, especially in competition scenes when the nervous chess parents act less mature than their children.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.