A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Gabby Douglas Story is a biopic about a young American gymnast who overcame obstacles to become an Olympic champion. The film contains no drinking, smoking, sex, or cursing, though there is a small amount of mean-girl talk at the gym and Gabby can be harsh on herself when evaluating her abilities. Gabby is depicted as a hard-working and determined individual who won't let poverty and illness stop her from reaching her goals. She is the member of a close-knit family headed by a single mom, who leaves Gabby's dad because he can't find a job. Gabby herself then moves away from her family as a young teen to train with a particular coach; parents may question whether they agree with that decision. Otherwise, this is a squeaky-clean sports films that youthful athletes, particularly gymnasts, may draw inspiration from.
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What's the story?
In 2012, Gabby Douglas made history by becoming the first woman of color to win individual all-around champion at the summer Olympics. THE GABBY DOUGLAS STORY shows us how she got there, despite long odds. Young Gabby (played by actresses Imani Hakim, Sydney Mikayla, and Gabby herself at different stages) was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder at infancy, and was so tiny and weak her family feared for her life. But the small girl grew and thrived under the care of her three loving siblings and tough, strong single mom (Regina King). When she showed a talent for gymnastics, her family scrimped and saved and found a way to have her coached. They even stuck it out when Gabby moved a thousand miles away to Iowa to train with her dream coach for the Olympics. We already know how the story ends, but what'll inspire young viewers is how determined Gabby Douglas was to succeed.
Is it any good?
The Gabby Douglas Story has just exactly the rhythm of an episode of Behind the Music. We meet our young protagonist, see the spark of talent and the flush of success, then obstacles are introduced, bringing our heroine down for a time, until she triumphs to the sound of soaring horns and bells.
The big-win-at-the-end formula is a predicatble one, but The Gabby Douglas Story is not without its charms, namely a palpable sweetness in the way Regina King's character rears her family with love yet strict firmness. Young viewers who watch the onscreen Gabby talking over her problems with her brother and sisters as they all do the dinner dishes together, and hear Gabby in voiceover repeating nuggets of her mom's wisdom will receive a potent positive message: Douglas' strong family bonds (and a whole lot of hard work) is what ultimately helped her triumph. Young athletes, particularly young gymnasts, will soak up the story of a girl "with a dream so big it'll eat you alive if it doesn't come true," even if parents find the goings-on a bit by-the-numbers.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the real-life Gabby Douglas. Are there parts of her life that this film does not depict? Why would that be? Are Douglas' flaws and weaknesses seen in this movie as well as her strengths?
After this movie, do you admire Gabby Douglas? Do you think you are meant to? What about the way The Gabby Douglas Story characterizes its heroine brings you to this conclusion?
Does The Gabby Douglas Story make becoming an Olympic gymnast look fun? Glamorous? Hard? Do you think this take on the lifestyle is accurate? Does the movie make you more interested in gymnastics? Or less?
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