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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Violence & Scariness
Basketball scenes include some aggressive play.
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Products & Purchases
The film is partly about Yao becoming a brand name.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this documentary focuses on the super-popular basketball player Yao Ming, whose initial acclimation into U.S. culture involves getting used to a new language, new habits, and new expectations. Many kids will be interested in his story, partly because the marketing machine this film exposes is so successful (Yao jerseys, posters, and other merchandise are everywhere). Families should be aware that the film's premise is Yao's integration into U.S. commercial culture: he becomes a kind of brand himself, as he sells Apple computers or soft drinks. It doesn't hurt that Yao is a great salesman, a good sport, and a loyal son to his parents, who come with him to live in Houston during his first year. There is mild profanity (from Yao's teammates), and the game scenes can be intense (only as professional basketball involves some aggression and body contact). To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Kids, especially those who are sports fans or moved here from a different country, will find this documentary interesting. Yao's parents (also basketball players, in China) moved with him from Shanghai. He was a mature 22-year-old, but was beset by demands and expectations from a crowd of people he didn't yet know very well -- trainers, coaches, teammates, physical therapists, and publicists. The film displays his good-natured adjustments to familiar U.S. excesses, including big cars, shopping malls, adoring fans, and lots of noise ("I think shopping tired him out more than playing did," observes Pine).
The movie's focus on Yao is limited by his lack of narrative abilities. Yao certainly dominates the frame (he's 7'6"; the only player here who comes close to that height is Shaquille O'Neal, Yao's much-touted professional rival, at 7'1"). But even as he stands out, Yao also tends to be quiet; this makes the filmmakers' decision to work through (the considerably shorter) Pine's experiences look sensible, as he fills in verbally when Yao is on the court or trying hard to understand the fast-talking Americans around him. (The film probably relies too much on Pine's reaction shots while he watches Yao play -- at first not so well -- as if viewers can't figure out how to react themselves.) Still, their friendship, at least Pine's understanding of it, forms the film's center. And it's clear that Yao is a big-hearted, well-adjusted friend to have.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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Our Editors Recommend
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