The Challenge

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
The Challenge Movie Poster Image
Olsen twins compete for scholarships in predictable tale.
  • G
  • 2004
  • 92 minutes

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

Positive Messages

All the teenage contestants are vying for college scholarships, so underlying the petty sniping and sabotages is a belief that education is important. The values of family loyalty and connections are emphasized.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Most of the contestants bond and support each other. The estranged twins ultimately value family above their differences and reunite. One sister is committed to saving the earth's environment. Another contestant wants to study astrophysics.

Violence & Scariness

In the Survivor-like TV show, contestants must eat worms, cockroaches, and other gag-inducing items. Contestants are put in the hot desert with little water or food.

Sexy Stuff

Couples kiss.


"Uptight, tree-hugging, Birkenstock-wearing."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Challenge is a 2003 Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen movie in which estranged twins battle each other in a Survivor-style TV competition. They risk their team's success as they bicker to prove who is smarter and better at survival in the hot desert. Both find romantic interests and kiss their new boyfriends. Contestants must eat worms, cockroaches, and other gag-inducing items.

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What's the story?

Estranged and separated by their parents' divorce, Lizzie and Shane (Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen, respectively) are invited to participate in a Survivor-style TV show to win college scholarships. Neither learns the other will be on the show until they arrive on location in Mexico. They spend the first segments of the contest arguing and trying to best each other, which helps the opposing team gain a competitive edge. As the contestants make their way through humiliating and difficult challenges -- bug-eating, pole-balancing, and a desert trek without water -- the twins look for creative solutions to the problems at hand as they reunite and work together. Although romantic alliances are forbidden, each twin attracts a boy. The producers and contestants all engage in behind-the-scenes backbiting and plotting; will the good guys win?

Is it any good?

The quality of the writing and acting in THE CHALLENGE is that of a hastily patched-together after-school TV show. The aim to promote good values notwithstanding, this Olsen twins adventure reads like a list of proper values being ticked off as the plot proceeds. Going to college is good; check. Getting a scholarship is good; check. Saving the planet? Check. There's also a nod to the fact that human nature is sketchy: The twins evolve from petty rivalry to deep familial loyalty, and the producer is ratings-driven and treacherous. (Unlike the twins, he does not redeem himself.) The contrast of the two girls' individual styles offers some amusement: One is a vegetarian yoga practitioner, and the other is a high-powered type-A who can't live without her cell phone and lip gloss. That's about as profound as this gets.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the Olsen twins. What is their appeal? Why are they still so popular?

  • Would you eat worms in exchange for money to go to college?

  • Is it ever OK to lie if good comes out of the lie? Why, or why not?

Movie details

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