Sons of Ben

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Sons of Ben Movie Poster Image
Fan-focused sports docu has some profanity.
  • NR
  • 2015
  • 75 minutes

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

Positive Messages

Persistence and perseverance are necessary when you're faced with the obstacles that stand in the way of achieving a goal. It's important to give back to the community and help the less fortunate. Teamwork is just as important off the field as on the field.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The soccer fans who create a groundswell of grassroots support for bringing a professional soccer team to Philadelphia show tremendous drive, determination, and perseverance. As they work to get a team, they also learn the importance of giving back to the community, of helping those less fortunate, of helping to get a town struggling with poverty, crime, and high unemployment back on its feet. 

Violence
Sex
Language

Regular use of "f--k." "S--t," "crap," "goddammit," "ass." While showing images of soccer message boards, "gay" is used in a negative connotation. 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some beer drinking. Scenes in bars. One of the guys interviewed openly discusses his substance abuse problems, particularly with cocaine and alcohol. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Sons of Ben is a 2015 documentary about a group of rabid soccer fans who are determined to find a way to bring a professional soccer team to Philadelphia. Positive values of persistence and perseverance are shown and discussed throughout the movie, as the group that starts the grassroots drive to get a team faces setback after setback, and those involved also learn the importance of giving back to the community when the team builds their stadium in a town outside of Philadelphia that is struggling with high unemployment, crime, and poverty. There is some profanity throughout, including regular use of "f--k." One of the guys interviewed openly discusses his substance abuse problems, particularly with cocaine and alcohol. Overall, this documentary is best enjoyed by fans not only of soccer but also of Philadelphia and its passionate (and notorious) fan base. 

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What's the story?

Sons of Ben is a sports documentary about a group of soccer-obsessed fans from Philadelphia who create a fan club for a nonexistent team. Calling themselves the Sons of Ben (after Ben Franklin), they begin showing up to games in other cities with homemade scarves and flags, banging drums and chanting "Philadelphia!" over and over again, much to the chagrin of the fans there to support their teams who actually exist and are playing on the field. They create a groundswell of support for professional soccer in Philadelphia through events planned around town and on the internet. The enthusiasm they bring about leads to generous support from state and local elected officials, and it's determined that the stadium will be built in Chester, Pennsylvania, a town outside Philadelphia that is struggling with poverty, crime, and high unemployment. Despite being faced with tremendous obstacles -- the collapse of the stock market putting the plans on hold, the toll it takes on their personal lives, the acrimony of fans from rival cities all too familiar with the boisterous behavior of Philadelphia sports fans -- the Sons of Ben move forward, and after years of hard work, their dream to bring professional soccer to Philadelphia comes to fruition. 

Is it any good?

Whereas most sports documentaries center on the athletes and teams themselves, Sons of Ben is focused on the fans. Notorious for their fervent and aggressive displays of support, Philadelphia sports fans are shown here stopping at nothing until they get a professional soccer team in the Philadelphia area. The dream is presented, the obstacles and hardships delineated, and the path leading to winning their franchise, the Philadelphia Union, is long and difficult. This documentary shows the passion of fans who love soccer, who love sports and the city in which they live, and why this matters to them. It also shows the public and private machinations at play in the process and how state and local officials want to use the team to try to get a struggling community back on its feet. 

The main issue with this documentary is its limited scope. If you're a fan of soccer, of Philadelphia, and of the culture of Philly sports fans, you'll be sure to enjoy it. However, if your interest in soccer is lacking, and if you're a bitter rival of Philly sports teams, it will be difficult to generate much enthusiasm for the story.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the positive values shown and discussed in Sons of Ben. How are character strengths such as persistence, perseverance, and teamwork presented in the movie? Also, how is giving back and helping out struggling communities shown to be important? 

  • This is a sports documentary about professional soccer and the passion of sports fans from Philadelphia. Do you think this movie would have appeal to those who are not fans of soccer or Philadelphia sports teams? Why, or why not? 

  • Most sports documentaries tell the stories of the athletes who play the sports. How is this documentary different in that regard? 

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