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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that T-Rex is a documentary about Claressa Shields, the first Olympic gold medal winner for women's boxing. It's a terrific, if slightly troublesome, portrait of a strong, young woman. Claressa is confident, works hard, and achieves her goals, though she's let down by the lack of monetary return for her work. Several boxing sequences show hard punches, and there's some talk about and threats of violence and inappropriate behavior at home, as well as strong language ("f--k," "s--t," "bitch," etc.) and warnings about teen sex and the possibility of getting pregnant. There are drug references and indications that some of the characters may be heavy drinkers. Even given the focus on endorsement deals and financial gain, the movie also has Claressa looking forward to a future full of possibility.
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What's the story?
In T-REX, while growing up in Flint, Mich., with an absent father, a drunk mother, and her mother's "disrespectful" boyfriend, Claressa Shields began pursuing boxing at age 11. Working for years with trainer Jason Crutchfield, she shows a natural aptitude for the sport, and it even seems to make her a better person; she trains hard, does her schoolwork, and keeps her distance from boys. In 2012, Claressa qualifies for the U.S. Olympic team, the first year that female boxing is an official event. And after a few setbacks, she manages to take the gold medal. But when Claressa, her family, and Jason begin to envision a brighter future, things take a turn.
Is it any good?
This skillful, intuitive documentary manages to read between the lines, capturing something quite a bit deeper than a typical sports story, finding bitter desperation along with victory. Co-directed by Zackary Canepari and Drea Cooper, T-Rex has the expected training sequences, interviews, details about women's boxing, and, of course, some actual matches. Some of the latter turn into painful defeats, and some are happy victories.
But what really comes out are the harsh, desperate living conditions in Flint, Mich., and the desperate hope that everyone surrounding Claressa will be able to hitch themselves to a gold medal and get out. Her trainer, Jason, is subtly but constantly battling with his dreams and his ego, and Claressa is stuck between fame and still having to struggle to pay a water bill. Even so, the filmmakers latch on to an unstoppable streak in Claressa, and things end on a hopeful note. (As of June, 2016, she qualified for the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.)
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about T-Rex's violence. How different are the boxing sequences and the vague threats of violence at home? How did each one affect you while watching? What's the impact of media violence on kids?
Does Claressa represent a positive body image for girls?
Why do you think Claressa, Jason, and Claressa's family are so focused on monetary rewards and endorsement deals? Are these things more important than the glory of winning the medal? Why?
- In theaters: June 24, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: August 9, 2016
- Cast: Claressa Shields, Jason Crutchfield
- Directors: Zackary Canepari, Drea Cooper
- Studio: The Film Collaborative
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Great Girl Role Models
- Character strengths: Perseverance
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: December 1, 2020
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