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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Top Spin is a documentary that follows three teens as they strive to make the 2012 U.S. Olympic table tennis team. The content is OK for all ages, but tweens and up are best suited for the positive messages and role models about perseverance, dedication, and sacrifice. They'll also learn a lot about what the players have to sacrifice, what's worth making sacrifices for, how much pressure teens can handle, and, of course, competitive table tennis. Adults are shown with alcohol a few times, but no one's seen drinking it. One of the players is more media-savvy than the others, and there's some mention about TV-show appearances, magazine articles, a photo shoot, and more, but they aren't glorified and are presented as some of the many things competing for the player's time and attention.
What's the story?
TOP SPIN tells the story of Ariel, Lily, and Michael, all high schoolers who all fell in love with table tennis (aka ping-pong) from a very young age. Years of practice, dedication, and sacrifice are hopefully about to pay off as documentary filmmakers follow them in the months leading up to the trials for the 2012 U.S. Olympic team. As we get to know each of the three, we also meet the families, coaches, and friends who help and support them as they pursue their dreams. Thrilling wins and heartbreaking losses are part of each athlete's story, too. Do all three have what it takes to chase Olympic gold?
Is it any good?
If competitive table tennis wasn't on your radar, it certainly will be after watching this quietly fascinating and compelling look at three high school kids preparing for the Olympic team trials. Tweens and teens especially will enjoy rooting for Lily, Michael, and Ariel to make the team in Top Spin and will learn a lot about table tennis, sportsmanship, focus, and sacrifice. Although the sport may seem quirky to U.S. audiences, going along with these talented athletes through ups and downs and wins and losses in pursuit of their dreams will open kids' eyes to universal themes of sports achievement.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about sacrifice. What would you be willing to give up to pursue your dream? Friends? School events such as prom or graduation? Time with your family? What makes giving up those things worthwhile for Top Spin's Ariel, Lily, and Michael?
Did anything surprise you about the world of competitive table tennis? What's something you didn't know before you saw this movie?
How do table tennis players compare to other athletes in the Olympics? Are they as strong or as fit, and do they work as hard as other athletes?
- In theaters: November 15, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: June 15, 2016
- Cast: Ariel Hsing, Lily Zhang, Michael Landers
- Directors: Sara Newens, Mina T. Son
- Studios: The Film Sales Company, First Run Features
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models
- Character strengths: Perseverance
- Run time: 80 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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