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Still shot from the movie: Prefontaine.


The turbulent career of Steve Prefontaine offers an intimate picture of what it must feel like to compete at an international level. From cocky to broken-hearted the American runner faces the physical and political challenges of his sport. Get the movie review and more. »


Overall: B- 3.5
Violence: A-
Sexual Content: B-
Language: D+
Drugs/Alcohol: --
Run Time: 106
Theater Release: 23 Jan 1997
Video Release: 03 Sep 2002
MPAA Rating: PG-13
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For those of you who may not remember "Pre's" era, Steve Prefontaine was a runner with an attitude. By the time his career peaked, he held more US records than any person before or after. But what makes this hero different is that his two biggest moments were his greatest defeats. In the 1972 Munich Olympics his performance was far less than expected, but an even greater tragedy loomed, as Pre's life would be taken minutes after a party honoring his efforts on behalf of amateur athletes.

More than his feats on the track, it was Pre's love-hate relationship with fans and fellow athletes that made his character so unique. His habit of speaking before considering if what he was about to say was really possible, seemed to be his greatest motivator. Boasting that he would break records and race to new heights fed the media and fan's appetites while often angering other contestants. The movie allows Pre to grow, and after the disheartening loss at Munch along with the terrorist crisis at those games, Pre begins to unfold a new era in his life.

Accounts from close associates concur that actor Jared Leto has the runner down pat, but the creators of Prefontaine did make some poor decisions. Throughout the film, we see characters aged with makeup, talking in an interview situation at the present time. I found this attempt to verify the truth of a dramatic movie manipulative and distracting. I also didn't appreciate small changes, like renaming the Amateur Athletic Union that Pre fought to the fictitious ATU.

But my greatest criticism is the avoidance of truth in the unfortunate car accident. An autopsy found his blood alcohol level was over the legal limit, yet the movie has no indication of Pre being the least bit intoxicated. Even a closeup of the speedometer reading 30 mph is included, and it is insinuated that another vehicle was the cause of his death. Audiences, especially teens, need to know that even the fastest man in America cannot outrun the consequences of drinking and driving.

Prefontaine is rated PG-13: for brief strong language.

Director: Steve James
Cast: Jared Leto, R. Lee Ermey, Ed O'Neill
Studio: 1997 Buena Vista Home Entertainment

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About the Reviewer: Rod Gustafson

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