Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Tri Movie Poster Image
Sincere but routine sports drama has mild cursing.
  • NR
  • 2016
  • 104 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Message-driven throughout. Includes numerous concepts about achieving goals and sense of well-being. Promotes resolving to finish what you start; with friends and family at your side, you never has do to anything alone; focus on taking care of yourself before anyone else; and, "What's the point of focusing on things we can't control?"

Positive Role Models & Representations

Leading character learns lesson about follow-through. At onset, it's noted (though not portrayed) that she never finishes what she starts. By finale, she clearly feels renewed and accomplished. Other characters represent various admirable traits: courage, spunk, determination, generosity, wisdom, and optimism. Ethnic diversity throughout.


Character on bike runs into a tree. No serious injury.


A few loving kisses.


"Ass," "hell," "are you boinking him?," "balls."


Countless images of sporting equipment, products, and events: (i.e., TYR, Cervelo, Castello, Speedo, Garmin, Rudy, Scattante, Cannondale, Boardman), Other products: Budweiser, Phillips, Red Zeppelin Productions.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Wine and beer are moderately consumed in a few social settings.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Tri is a fictional drama about participants in triathlons -- an athletic competition that includes swimming, bike riding, and running. Referencing an exemplary real past competitor (Julie Moss) and using real events -- the central one here is the National Triathlon, which takes place annually in Washington, D.C. and is the largest event of its kind in the U.S. -- the movie hopes to portray the challenges, emotional highs and lows, as well as the demanding preparation and determination it takes to succeed. And, to succeed in this endeavor, at least as a novice, is simply to finish. Several personal stories are included here, all of which lead to thoughtful but familiar messages about life. The main character is a young woman with a history of quitting and a strong desire to get past that history. Additionally, in related subplots, viewers will meet several cancer patients who are living through a variety of stages in their treatment. Spoiler alert: a central character unexpectedly dies (off camera), and the grieving process is observed. Lots of film shows the contestants in training and tracking them in the actual events. A few curse words are heard (i.e., "ass," "balls," "hell"). Given the mature themes and thin plotting, the film is best for mature kids, especially those who might be interested in a sport that is growing in popularity.

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What's the story?

In TRI, ultrasound tech Natalie (Jensen Jacobs) is intrigued by the recommendation of Candice, a patient (Shawn Pelofsky), to consider participating in a triathlon -- a grueling event that includes swimming, biking, and running. Natalie, having earned a reputation as one who "never finishes what she starts," checks it out with best friend Skyler (Walker Hays) and the two decide to give it a go. The nearby Nationals Triathlon in Washington, D.C. is just 16 weeks away. Training begins. Natalie and Skyler join a prep team and bond with an assortment of likeable, enthusiastic members, some coping with serious issues of their own. At the same time, Candice, one of the organizers of the DC event, faces a life-threatening medical challenge. Over the next months, the two women feel the highs and lows of working hard toward what may be an unachievable goal, and bear witness to the struggles, even tragic events, that follow others in the triathlon world. 

Is it any good?

If there is to be a classic movie featuring the world of The Triathlon Competitor, it is yet to be made; this one tries hard, but fails to elicit any real drama or originality. There are some competent, even engaging performances. Director Jai Jamison, working on his first feature with a low budget and the heavy demands of photographing an event that covers expansive territory and is the most-populated international distance triathlon in the U.S., does admirably well given the story he's trying to tell. But story is the weakest element in Tri. From the outset, no one doubts that Natalie will achieve her goal. And, (Spoiler Alert) incorporating three separate characters fighting cancer as well as one with a devastating heart attack doesn't make up for the non-suspense at the core of the drama. It's slow-going, too, with plenty of pauses to allow conventional characters (the upbeat cancer patient, the grieving widower) to deliver wise but familiar messages about focus, gratitude, and acceptance. At best, the film is a nice introduction to the sport and what it means to commit to it.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what it means to "finish what you start." Almost everyone experiences lapses in completion of projects we start, like the characters in Tri do, but it's easy to let such lapses become the rule. What are some ways in which we can plan for and execute our goals consistently? How important is it to set those goals realistically? 

  • What did Natalie learn from Candice about approaching challenges? From Christine? And what did she learn about herself in Tri?

  • Have you ever wanted to participate in an individual sport such as triathlon? How does an individual sport differ from a team sport? What are the advantages and/or disadvantages of both types? Did this movie motivate you to seek out an activity that you might enjoy and learn from?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love sports

Themes & Topics

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