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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The importance of community and tradition.
Positive Role Models
Beloved coaches, players, parents, and students talk of what the rivalry between two Catholic high school football teams has meant to them. Some mentions of good sportsmanship, but nothing that really stands out.
Infrequent profanity, usually shouted by coaches, sometimes players: "pissed," "asses," "damn."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Some of the testimonials take place inside a bar.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Akron Holy War is a 2017 documentary about the legendary rivalry between two Akron Catholic high school football teams. While much is made of how this rivalry is "different" from other sports rivalries, and there's some footage of LeBron James as a teenager playing for one of the teams, it's hard to imagine anyone outside of northeast Ohio finding anything particularly engaging, even for the most obsessive of football fans. The history of the rivalry is told from its inception to the present day, with coaches, players, parents, and students from the past and present talking about the different games, their memories, and the unique rituals and traditions of the schools and community. (For the record, LeBron James is not one of the interview subjects providing his reflections on what the rivalry meant to him.) There's infrequent mild profanity, usually from coaches but sometimes from players. Overall, this sports documentary lacks the narrative depth and big-picture context that makes the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary series so interesting, even for many who aren't sports fans. It has the feel of a scrapbook in movie form -- a scrapbook that's only interesting to those who took part. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This well-meaning sports documentary doesn't break any new ground. Besides being known as a hub for tire manufacturing in the 20th century and the hometown of the members of Devo, Akron, Ohio, is also known in some circles for a storied high school football rivalry. The Akron Holy War attempts to present the history of the rivalry between the Archbishop Hoban Knights and the St. Vincent/St. Mary Knights, the passion and intensity that drives the rivalry, and why this rivalry is different from the countless other high school football rivalries spanning the United States. Unfortunately, while this rivalry is clearly shown to mean a lot to the coaches, players, parents, and students who have taken part, the documentary fails at making this rivalry relevant for anyone living outside of northeastern Ohio.
One of the problems is that it's redundant. Basically, most of the movie is an endless succession of low-quality home video or sportscasts from old games paired with the recollections of the kinds of middle-aged guys who populate neighborhood bars throughout America and who are a little too eager to relive past gridiron glory. Over and over again, the dozens of testimonials try really hard to sell the audience on the idea that this rivalry is in fact "special" and "different" from other high school rivalries, but the narrative doesn't dig deeply enough to accomplish that. Hearing and seeing yet another spiel about this or that game and what it meant just gets boring after a while. That said, while this is no doubt a nice scrapbook in movie form for those who are passionate about this rivalry, it's difficult to imagine anyone outside the region being interested.
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.