A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this action drama includes several harrowing scenes of storms and sinking boats at sea. Rescue swimmers valiantly try to save victims, but some deaths occur on screen (not bloody, but sad and -- in one case -- quite disturbing). Kids with fears about water should probably see something else. Sailors and swimmers argue and draw blood in fistfights. A couple falls in love and is shown kissing and in bed (no explicit sex, but tumbling under blankets and some underwear shots). Protagonists drink, take painkillers, and use occasional profanity.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Kevin Costner stars as Ben Randall, a veteran Coast Guard rescue swimmer who turns to teaching after a traumatic event leaves him unable to carry on as usual. Ben needs to recover his nerve, while cocky student Jake (Ashton Kutcher) learn to play nicely with others, including his girlfriend, Emily (Melissa Sagemiller). Both teacher and student have suffered; the revelations of that suffering lead each to his own sort of manly re-commitment. At the rescue-swimming training facility, Ben's red-lit nightmares are compounded by the fact that his long-suffering wife, Helen (Sela Ward), has left him. He self-medicates and grumps at the recruits, and for 18 weeks, drills his trainees hard. Ben's methods occasionally alarm and annoy his fellow instructors, including resentful second-in-command Jack (Neal McDonough) and skeptical presiding officer Larson (John Heard). During his down time, Ben calls Helen to beg forgiveness and helps Jake avenge a beating he received from disdainful Navy sailors. Though the trainees' ranks do include a woman, the focus here is on boys learning to be men. Ben and Jake see themselves in each other, pretty much to the exclusion of anyone else. When Emily suggests to Jake that Ben may be "trying to push you to be better," Jake sets her straight: "He knows I'm better than he is!"
Is it any good?
With a retread plot, plenty of boy-bonding action, and a shirtless Ashton Kutcher, this is a by-the-numbers crowd pleaser that's about as dull as a heroic redemption story could be.
Per formula, parallel redemption stories grant "emotional" moments to both Ben and Kutcher's Jake. By the time Jake has his big breakdown scene (he cries, though he doesn't actually say, "I got nowhere else to go!"), it's clear that, for all their earnest, actorly efforts, neither man has a chance against Ron L. Brinkerhoff's hackneyed script.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about ways to deal with trauma. How does the movie make the case that focusing on the future (in the form of students to be taught and lives to be saved) helps Ben overcome his guilt, anger, and frustration? What are other ways -- both successful and unsuccessful -- that people deal with traumatic events? How do Ben and Jake's similarities (ambition, competitiveness, tragic pasts) make them ideal partners? What other movies have used a similar structure (tough veteran mentors young hot shot)? Families can also discuss the work of the Coast Guard, including the unit's heroic rescues on the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina.
- In theaters: September 28, 2006
- On DVD or streaming: January 23, 2007
- Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Kevin Costner, Melissa Sagemiller
- Director: Andrew Davis
- Studio: Buena Vista
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 136 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: for intense sequences of action/peril, brief strong language and some sensuality.
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