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Never Give Up

Family / Sports
2023 / 79 minutes
RATING: 6/10

This is great family viewing for the peek it offers into the very different world of the deaf. Never Give Up is the true story of Brad Minns, left deaf by a high fever at the age of three, back in 1968. His parents made the unusual decision at that time, to teach Minns to lip-read and have him try to take on the challenge of a regular school, instead of going to a deaf institution.

While his classmates and even his teacher aren’t all that welcoming, the game of tennis becomes an outlet and a refuge. Here his hearing loss doesn’t make him all that different. It’s still not an even playing field – deaf players can’t hear how the ball sounds coming off their opponent’s racket – but as Minn’s first instructor tells him, he can use his eyes and his heart to make up the difference. When Minns beats his big brother, he starts realizing he could become great at this.

One of the more unlikely tennis comebacks serves as the backbone to this film – it opens with Minns down two sets, and down five games to none in the third. In flashbacks throughout the match we learn about how he got here and how those early life challenges and triumphs gave him the perseverance to keep fighting even when he’s that far down.

CAUTIONS

The only caution to note would be a hazing scene. When Minns tries out for the US national deaf tennis team, someone hides his rackets right before his first match. Then, after he wins and heads to the showers, they hide his clothes. With no other option, Minns comes to the team meeting “wearing” nothing but a two-foot by three-foot sign which reads “Used tennis balls here.” That sounds worse than it is – the signage has him covered more modestly than even the biggest pair of shorts.

CONCLUSION

I wanted to give this a 7, because our whole family enjoyed it. Who doesn’t like a family-friendly, sports underdog story, that teaches you a bit about a different world, and even acknowledges God with a few quiet and respectful nods?

But I give 6s for good films that have something notably subpar, and that’s the acting here. It’s just not very good. It’s not so bad that it’s annoying, but it is in the range of what you’d find in a low-end Hallmark movie.

I’ll add that there are some nice production touches too, including the soundtrack featuring Huey Lewis’ The Power of Love (playing when Minns was down 40 to love), and some unique “sketched” opening titles. The tennis match itself is solidly shot – believable if not all that suspenseful.

So, a 6, but significantly, a 6 that everyone in our family enjoyed. Never Give Up is in theaters across the US starting on Sept. 1, and will be available to stream in Canada some time after.

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Family, Movie Reviews

Back of the Net

Sports / Family 2019 / 86 minutes Rating: 7/10 Cory Bailey is an American teen science nerd whose next stop is a semester-long trip on a research ship departing from Sydney, Australia. But after arriving at the Sydney Airport, she boards the wrong school bus, and ends up on the wrong campus. Now instead of spending a term studying aquatic life, she's at a soccer academy. And she's never played before in her life. Adults are going to be able to predict where this is going right from the get-go, but no worries mate, because they aren't the target audience. And the pre-teens this is aimed at are going to enjoy Cory's fish-out-of-water experience. This is really just a light, feel-good film, with Cory going from friendless to gaining a bunch of bosom buddies. There's also a charming jock who doesn't really get science, but can appreciate Cory's passion. The Australian accents and scenery also add to the appeal. There is a villain, of course, but even rich girl Edie isn't all that nasty. She's really just misunderstood, don't you see? Cautions The cautions here are mostly of the too-good-to-be-true nature of the story. Cory might have been a fish-out-of-water to start, but by film's end, everything has turned up roses, and in every possible way. Adults will know this isn't realistic, but the pre-teens might need a reminder that even as confidence can often be key, "believing in yourself" isn't some kind of miraculous guarantee of victory. Another concern is the budding romance between Cory and a very nice boy. While there's just one peck on the lips exchanged (and another attempted kiss), Cory's friends do a fair amount of "ooooh"ing to tease Cory. Sure, it's funny, but parents may want to point out that it's also just plain silly: these kids are too young to be thinking of marriage, so they don't need to (and shouldn't be trying to) contend with all the drama that comes with dating. The other cautions include three instances of "Oh my gosh," and a beach scene in which two boys are shirtless (though in long shorts). Conclusion Back of the Net strikes me as a cross between one of the better Hallmark films and an old-school Disney TV movie, or in other words, a sweet if predictable story, with decent production values and pretty good acting. Pre-teen girls will love it, and the rest of us won't mind it. ...