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Sprinter

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Sprinter Movie Poster Image
Heartwarming sports drama has sex, language, and drinking.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 114 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Clear messages delivered with insight: Talent must work in combination with stability and ethical behavior. "No shortcuts -- not in track and field, not in life." Overcoming adversity depends on inner strength, facing reality, focus ("mental blinkers"). Beware of those who would sabotage your success. "No man can outrun the choices he makes."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Flawed and/or naive characters learn important lessons about integrity, forgiveness, redemption, determination, compassion, and teamwork. Teen hero, specifically, starts down a dangerous path, but with support of others, his own insights, and strong need to live up to his potential, he learns to make sound decisions. 

Violence

A father and son fight; the son is bruised afterward. Police break up a party, chasing young people and rounding them up. Angry criminals chase hero, brandishing guns. Guns are used as a threat in several scenes.

Sex

Couples have sex in several brief scenes (no nudity). Provocative dancing and partying. Teen boy brags about having sex with a teen girl. Older brother encourages teen to have sexual experiences. Condoms are used.

Language

Profanity and cursing includes "f--k," "s--t," "p---y," "hell," "screw," "damn," "a--hole." Sexual banter: "sexy boy," "virgin."

Consumerism

Puma.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking and marijuana use in numerous scenes. Featured character has a drinking problem (vomits). 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Sprinter is a Jamaican movie about a talented young runner with family issues that threaten both his ambition and his innate sense of right and wrong. The movie is in English with subtitles to help viewers with the island dialect. The high school sprinter must deal with an absent mother, an alcoholic dad, and a corrupt brother as he tries to succeed. Viewers can expect some violent moments: an intense fight between father and son, crooks brandishing guns, a police chase, as well as profanity and swearing, including "f--k," "s--t," "p---y," "hell," and "damn." Sexuality and provocative behavior play a role as the young man comes of age: Scenes show couples having sex, mostly in brief, dispassionate moments (no nudity). A teen boy brags about having sex with a teen girl. An older brother encourages a teen to have sexual experiences. Condoms are used. One character drinks to excess; alcohol is abundant in party scenes, and marijuana is used. For mature teens only.

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What's the story?

It's not hard to understand why Akeem Sharp (Dale Elliott) looks up to his brother, Germaine (Kadeem Wilson), in SPRINTER. His mother, Donna (Lorraine Toussaint), left the family in Jamaica 10 years earlier to work in the United States and help support them; she's there for him, but only via Skype. His dad (Dennis Titus), though well-intentioned, is struggling himself. Only Germaine, a former 400-meter track star, is a role model for Akeem. So the teen is angry when his coach (David Alan Grier) forces him to compete in a 200-meter race instead of the 400 he's rather unsuccessfully been prepping for. To Akeem's surprise and delight, he wins the 200 and becomes a phenomenon. Germaine is impressed. Girls are impressed. But the road to the World Youth Games in Los Angeles is far from manageable. Akeem must face the scary truth that his brother isn't what he seems, that his parents have been keeping a secret that devastates him, and that he must grow up in order to make the right choices that will make his own life work.

Is it any good?

Sometimes a conventional story can be made special via in-depth characters well played, a rousing spirit, and great rooting interest; this is one of those stories. Underdog athletes are a staple of feel-good sports movies; Storm Saulter makes his hero especially "winning" in Sprinter. Even the pedestrian villain of the piece, a big brother seduced by greed and power, touched by envy, and seemingly unredeemable, has a chance to get in touch with the soul he once had. Saulter and his team (particularly production design and music) bring the unique beauty of Jamaica -- its music, its color, its singular energy -- to the screen as well. Executive-produced by Jada Pinkett and Will Smith, it was a film festival favorite. It's a good movie, satisfying in spite of its predictability. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the value of seeing movies about people from other countries and cultures. Were you familiar with Jamaica before you watched Sprinter? What did you find special or interesting about the island? What do you think kids in your community have in common with the teens you saw at St. Lazarus High School? Differences?

  • The movie states, "No shortcuts, not in track and field, not in life." What does this mean? How does it work in combination with the coach's advice about "mental blinkers"?

  • This movie can be described as predictable. How early in the movie did you know how it would end? Did it make the journey any less enjoyable? Why are predictable movies sometimes deeply satisfying?

  • How did the filmmakers use color and music to set the tone for the film? What did it add to the story? How did it define Akeem's community?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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