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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Undefeated is an inspiring football documentary that includes a few uses of strong language ("s--t") but is otherwise a great example of how one fatherly mentor can make the difference in the lives of many young men. Even better is the fact that Coach Bill isn't a fictional movie character; he's the real deal -- a successful businessman who wants to show underprivileged teens that with discipline and teamwork, they can rise above their surroundings and make it to college and beyond.
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What's the story?
UNDEFEATED is an Oscar-nominated documentary that follows the underrated football team from Manassas High School -- a lower-income school in North Memphis, Tenn. -- through a year of tragedies and triumphs. Led by Bill Courtney, a businessman who volunteers his time to coach and mentor the mostly fatherless young men on the team, the Manassas Tigers fight their way to an extraordinary season. The action follows Coach Bill and three of his defensive linemen: OC Brown, a gifted left tackle who needs serious academic help to qualify for a scholarship; Chavis Daniels, a short-fused linebacker with rage issues; and Montrail "Money" Brown, a scholar athlete whose prospects plunge after an injury.
Is it any good?
Executive produced by Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, this documentary is exactly the sort of inspiring underdog story that would make an excellent feature film. Coach Bill, a Philip Seymour Hoffman lookalike, is always ready with a pep talk or a nugget of wisdom for his team, but he's also not afraid to talk tough with them when they need a kick in the rear. Although some might think of the situation as a case of white paternalism (a wealthy white businessman volunteers to coach the poor black kids), Bill is truly generous, even at the expense of spending time with his own four children.
But Bill's exceptional generosity isn't the point of Undefeated; it's about the three players who have different difficulties to overcome to make it out of their rough neighborhood and into college. In a move right out of The Blind Side, Coach Bill agrees to let OC live with him part of the week so that the teen can receive the kind of tutoring necessary to help him meet the minimum requirements to earn a football scholarship. We care about the OC and Money and even combative Chavis, and it's that irresistible pull to find out whether they end up victorious -- not just on the field but in the future -- that will keep you mesmerized until the credits (and epilogue title cards) roll.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Undefeated's messages. Are they all positive? How about role models? Who do you find most inspiring?
Discuss the movie's inherent race and class issues. Does race a play a role in how the team relates to Coach Bill?
How does Undefeated compare to other inspiring football films about underdog teams? Did the movie end how you expected?
Why are sports films so compelling, even if you're not a fan of that particular sport?
- In theaters: February 17, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: February 19, 2013
- Directors: Daniel Lindsay, T.J. Martin
- Studio: Weinstein Co.
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, High School
- Character Strengths: Integrity, Teamwork
- Run time: 113 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some language
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