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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Climb is a French movie with English subtitles based on a true story of a Senegalese-Frenchman who climbed Mount Everest with no prior experience in order to prove his love to his girlfriend. There are many marijuana-themed jokes made throughout, usually from radio DJs who interview the lead character throughout his journey and ask him about the marijuana in Nepal. Friends try to give the lead character a giant bag of marijuana. Lots of alcohol: Climbers from Britain and Germany are frequently drunk, and there's celebratory drinking when climbers reach bases along the climb to the top. Some profanity -- especially from the British climbers, who frequently say "f--k." S--t," "crap," "damn," and "hell" are also used.
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What's the story?
In THE CLIMB (aka L'Ascencion), Samy is a young Senegalese-Frenchman from a Parisian suburb. He's sweet and kind, but lacks direction; his girlfriend, Nadia, refuses to kiss him until he proves himself worthy. With no prior experience or real understanding of the enormity of the task, Samy decides that he's going to climb Mount Everest in order to win Nadia's love. He secures sponsorship with a local radio station and, packed with the supplies he thinks he needs -- including snacks and a romance novel --Samy flies to Kathmandu. It's here where he meets his sherpa, who goes by Johnny, and begins his climb with an experienced team from all over the world. At home, the DJs of the radio station who sponsored him spread the word about Samy's story, and the public becomes smitten by the "romantic gesture" of Samy's quest as Nadia tries to keep her cool and hope Samy survives the journey. As Samy begins his ascent, the reality of the situation begins to hit him as he sees injured and even dead climbers returning down the mountain. Still, Samy climbs higher and higher, and despite all entreaties from the experts around him to stop, Samy remains persistent, desperate to prove himself worthy to himself and to Nadia.
Is it any good?
This French movie is equal parts hero's journey and romcom. As Samy, the charmingly naive Senegalese-Frenchman willing to climb Mount Everest to prove his love for his girlfriend, Ahmed Sylla manages to maintain the wide-eyed wonder and inherent comedy in his "fish out of water" role, even in the scenes when all hope seems lost and he has no chance of fulfilling his goal. On his climb, he's joined by smiling sherpas fond of French rock-and-roll T-shirts as well as international eccentrics, lovable and not-so-lovable. His support group back home, besides his skeptical but increasingly swept-up girlfriend -- his cabdriver father, protective mother, stoner neighborhood friends, and the radio DJs who interview him as often as possible -- are endearing enough.
The problem with The Climb is that the formula makes even the monumental endeavor of climbing Mount Everest feel somewhat banal. Because, after all, we know how it ends. And there are no unexpected twists or turnarounds that lead the viewer to think that maybe Samy won't reach the top. There's a brief moment of doubt toward the end, but that scene isn't elongated to its full dramatic possibility. Not even the French, who are known for not automatically going for that Hollywood happy ending, could find a way to plug in anything new to this underdog tale.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about movies based on books. What would be the challenge in adapting a book into a movie like The Climb?
This movie was based on a true story. At the end, when they discuss the true story, what differences do you notice? Why do you think the filmmakers made those changes?
What are examples of similar movies in which an unlikely hero conquers his fears and long odds to emerge victorious?
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