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Parents' Guide to

The Grizzlies

By Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Powerful Canadian sports drama promotes understanding.

Movie R 2021 102 minutes
The Grizzlies Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

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Kids say (3 ):

Calling The Grizzlies a "Canadian high school sports movie" would significantly undersell its value. This little indie about lacrosse is right up there with Hoosiers, Miracle, and Friday Night Lights on the list of most powerful sports movies. It doesn't just defy sports movie clichés: It embraces and then exceeds the genre by delivering a meaningful and important story about an Indigenous community that has the highest suicide rate in North America. Not only are Kugluktuk's teens facing challenges like poverty, hunger, and abuse, but they're trying to exist in a world where colonizers have marginalized their people and disrupted centuries of customs and culture.

It may raise some eyebrows, then, that the movie's "hero," Russ Sheppard, is a White man who introduces the Indigenous sport of lacrosse to a group of Indigenous teens. But what initially looks like another White savior story soon takes on more fish-out-of-water elements. Yes, the story centers on Sheppard's narrative -- starting when he arrives in Kugluktuk fired up and ready to attack his first teaching assignment before getting the heck out of the Arctic and into a sweet prep school gig. But the movie also shows us behind-the-scenes glimpses of his students' complicated lives, where Sheppard is nowhere to be seen. That helps viewers understand why, when he sees that his students aren't motivated to come to school, to participate, or to complete assignments, it's a mistake for him to apply the solutions that might work for White urbanites -- i.e., tough talk and calling out "troublemakers." He fails tragically. And that's where director Miranda de Pencier tries to turn what seems like a Dangerous Minds-type film into a slap upside the head for assuming that you can come into a new culture and identify what needs "fixing." De Pencier shows that trying to impose your way onto others, even those who seem to be struggling, can be far more damaging than effective, but the film never quite escapes its trappings of centering a White male lead who shakes up the town of Kugluktuk for the better. Otherwise, The Grizzlies hits all the marks to leave you cheering, crying, and, hopefully, thinking.

Movie Details

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