A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Kids will learn about the mechanics and skills involved in playing golf, but this movie is more inspirational than educational.
Many positive messages about unconditional love, how a father should love his son whether he wins or loses, and the idea that we need to bury the lies that keep us down. The people of Utopia teach Luke that faith, friendship, and family are all more important than winning. He learns to think of the big picture and how he'd like to live his life, rather than just pursue the top spot on the leaderboard.
Positive Role Models
Johnny is the ultimate role model. He's kind, discerning, selfless, and forgiving, as well as instructive and disciplining -- an allegorical stand-in for unconditional fatherly love. Luke's story is one of redemption and learning that you can't allow anything -- even a passion like sports -- to deceive you into thinking that your self-worth is tied to how well you do on the green, on the court, in the classroom, etc.
Violence & Scariness
Luke snaps a golf club in two out of anger and frustration. He also gets into a brief tussle with two rivals, but it's just pushing and shoving; no punches are thrown. Four guys play Cowboy Poker, in which they all try to stay attached to their chairs while a bull runs around them in a rodeo arena.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Luke and Sarah are clearly interested in each other, but the relationship is so chaste that she won't even accept a kiss from him.
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Mild insults like "hick" and "have you choked on anything today?" are exchanged between Luke and Jake. One use of "hell."
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Products & Purchases
Golf equipment/accessories company Callaway is omnipresent: the name/logo appears on clubs, caps, shirts, and golf tournament signs. At one point, Luke's father gives him a new club and mentions it's "Callaway's latest." The Golf Channel is also heavily featured, including golf commentators/analysts Kelly Tilghman and Brandel Chamblee.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
One character says he's going to use money for "drinks," but no one is shown drinking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this Christian-themed golf drama (which is based on the inspirational book Golf's Sacred Journey: Seven Days at the Links of Utopia by David Cook) has very little iffy content. There's zero language or sexuality other than chaste flirting between two young adults, and the violence doesn't go beyond some pushing and shoving and a scene of "Cowboy Poker" (trying to stay in your chair as a bull runs around you in a rodeo arena). There are some very obvious product placements by Callaway and the Golf Channel, but it's a golf movie, so it's to be expected. Although the movie's messages are overtly Christian (a scripture starts off the movie, everyone goes to church and says grace, and a Bible signifies the protagonist's conversion), non-Christian viewers could also see it as a story of redemption and believing in yourself. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
The acting is so good here, it's a shame the message misses its mark. There's nothing wrong with an inspiring sports movie; some of the best in the genre -- Hoosiers, Remember the Titans, Miracle -- are classics that families will be watching together for generations. But there's a line between inspiring and evangelizing, between moving and cheesy, and this golf drama crosses completely over into eye-rolling territory. It's not the actors -- the cast boasts two Academy Award winners (Duvall and Melissa Leo), plus Black, Hurt Locker vet Brian Geraghty, True Blood vamp Deborah Ann Woll, and Emmy winner Kathy Baker. It's the movie's Cars-meets-Karate Kid-via-Sunday School plot that drags it down. Not to mention that golf isn't the most exciting sport to begin with, so there's a generally soporific tone to the entire endeavor.
On the bright side, the cinematography is lovely (lush greens and blues), Black never looks awkward swinging a golf club, and the soundtrack features a memorable selection of contemporary Christian tunes. Duvall's take on a Mr. Miyagi-ish mentor is quite amusing, although possibly unintentionally so -- as in the scene when Johnny ludicrously allows Luke to take the controls of a small airplane as it begins to plummet through the air. Painting and fly-fishing are one thing, but flying a plane? No. The movie's general message that winning is never more important than what's in your heart is a wonderful lesson for all budding athletes, but the delivery is too heavy-handed.
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.