The Heart of the Game

  • Review Date: February 25, 2007
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 2006
  • Running Time: 102 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Excellent high school sports documentary.
  • Review Date: February 25, 2007
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 2006
  • Running Time: 102 minutes

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Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Discussion of race and racism, players and coach's journey to the finals and evolving commitment to each other are inspiring.

Violence

On-court action includes bumping and hard fouling; language includes references to aggressive play ("killing" opponents).

Sex

One girl admits late in the film that a coach she hired individually sexually abused her (her recollection is tearful); another player becomes pregnant as a teenager and misses a season.

Language

One girl uses the f-word following a disappointing loss; s-word; couple of "hell"s.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this documentary includes images of high school basketballers devoted to becoming a nationally ranked team: The girls are occasionally roughed up on the court and rebellious against their hard-driving coach. One girl reveals she was sexually abused by an individual coach (and she comes back to help her original coach work with younger players); another becomes pregnant and misses a season, returning as a single mother. Some cursing (including an f-word and s-word).

Parents say

Kids say

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What's the story?

THE HEART OF THE GAME follows the Rough Riders, a Seattle high school girls' basketball team led by the unlikely tax-professor-turned coach Bill Resler. Resler's unique and effective coaching style (which includes encouraging the girls to think of their opponents as prey), inspires the girls to work hard and excel. With Resler's help, the team looks towards the state championship. The documentary finds its shape in following star player Darnellia Russell's compelling story: As she matures, she learns to cope with competing demands on her time. Even when she faces what seems a career-stopping event -- pregnancy -- she has her baby, learns to rely on her family and her baby's young, devoted father, and comes back. Her teammates rally behind her when the WIAA (Washington Interscholastic Activities Association) rules that she cannot return to play, because she's now in her fifth year in high school. Even as local media create a swirl of controversy, her lawyer argues the ruling discriminates against girls. While Bill Resler and Darnellia are plainly inspirations -- for one another as well as the team -- the movie also keeps sight of the multiple lives intertwining throughout this process, with attention to opposing teams and Darnellia's family members.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Heart of the Team is an intelligent, challenging, and entertaining documentary that's been compared to Hoop Dreams, probably the best sports documentary ever. But Heart also does some important work that film does not, namely, it considers issues specific to girls, including a sexually abusive coach one girl hires to improve her personal game and the subtle and unsubtle ways that misogyny still shapes expectations of women athletes and girls with ambitions.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the ways that Darnellia matures over the course of the film, transitioning form rebellious adolescent to responsible teammate. How does her coach describe these changes, as he encourages her to believe in herself? How does Darnellia come to depend on her family and teammates in order to become a great player?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 7, 2006
DVD release date:February 27, 2007
Cast:Bill Resler, Darnellia Russell, Ludacris
Director:Ward Serrill
Studio:Miramax
Genre:Documentary
Topics:Sports and martial arts
Run time:102 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:brief strong language

This review of The Heart of the Game was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent Written bySeattle Mom October 10, 2011
AGE
8
QUALITY
 

A positive story with some grown up content, responsibly handled

I watched this with my 8 year old son because I went to the high school where it was set (2 decades before the documentary was filmed!!). I was cautious about letting him watch it because I read that it briefly discussed the sexual abuse of one player and the teenage pregnancy of another, and I was prepared for challenging questions at the end. My son's only question was, "Why did the girl cry when she won the game?" The main coach, though extremely competitive, had a very positive way of interacting with his players, which I was happy for my son to see. There was also open, honest, and positive discussion of race and socio-economic disparity which I think is also worthwhile for kids to view in this context. Overall I think it was a great film for teenagers for certain, and for younger kids too, if watched with parents who are prepared to discuss the questions that might be raised. Very entertaining and uplifting overall.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much swearing
Parent of a 6 year old Written bymadsmooney1214 September 22, 2012
AGE
8
QUALITY
 

heart game

Families can talk about the ways that Darnellia matures over the course of the film, transitioning form rebellious adolescent to responsible teammate. How does her coach describe these changes, as he encourages her to believe in herself? How does Darnellia come to depend on her family and teammates in order to become a great player?
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing

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