The Air Up There

Movie review by
Randy White, Common Sense Media
The Air Up There Movie Poster Image
Offensive, shop-worn comedy.
  • PG
  • 1994
  • 108 minutes

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

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.

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The movie trivializes African customs and beliefsfor cheap laughs and outdated stereotypes.


Some mild profanity

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that if this movie wasn't so inconsequential, it would be a lot more offensive. African customs and beliefs are trivialized, and much of the humor falls into the "isn't it cute, they speak English" camp. The movie's very premise -- that a white man has to go to Africa to save a poor tribe -- is insulting. Though aimed at older children, they're likely to drift away, like the aimless story, after the novelty of the basketball action wears off.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byJpmills1 February 4, 2019

Grew up watching this as a missionary kid

This is a fun, feel good, family friendly comedy set in Africa. My parents lived in Africa, we are friends with Africans. This movie captures the warm humor, co... Continue reading
Adult Written byMovieLover4Lyfe October 6, 2010
This movie isn't really worth watching. Offensive and not very well made.

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

In THE AIR UP THERE, ex-point guard Jimmy Dolan (Kevin Bacon) has his eye on the coach's job at the college he once led to a national basketball championship. Desperate for an edge, he travels to Kenya in an effort to recruit a promising player. When he gets there he discovers that the tall and talented Saleh can't go back to America because he is the future ruler of his people. All is not well with Saleh's tribe -- a greedy businessman wants the tribe's land. So, it's up to J.D. to rescue the helpless clan by organizing a winner-take-all basketball game. If Jimmy is to play in the game, he must go through a series of religious rituals to become one of the tribe. Not surprisingly, the team wins, Saleh comes back to America, and Jimmy lands the head coaching position.

Is it any good?

The air up there must be pretty thin stuff, because whoever thought up this offensive comedy was surely lacking oxygen. The story strains all credulity. Even audiences of a lightweight comedy will balk at the idea that an African tribe would risk everything on a basketball game. The bulk of the movie's humor is of the juvenile or gross-out variety. While Bacon is not given much to work with, he doesn't even deliver on the basics. He is an unconvincing dribbler and his comic timing is weak. This actor has done much better work just about everywhere else.

Given the racial stereotyping, the moralizing tone of the movie is outrageous. Bacon's J.D. learns the typical Hollywood lesson about overcoming pride and figuring out that there are more important things in life than winning. Of course, then J.D. goes out and wins the big game. A 12-year-old girl was extremely unimpressed. Granted, she's probably not the movie's target audience, but her derisive laughter throughout said it all: How dumb do moviemakers think kids are?

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about racial stereotypes and how they are reflected in pop culture.

  • Why is a an outsider brought into the tribe to save it? How does this make you feel?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate