Born a Champion parents guide

Born a Champion Parent Guide

It might not be original but at least it's sincere.

Overall B-

Digital on Demand: Mickey Kelley, former Marine, has found a new career: the Brazilian martial-art of jiu-jitsu. But that doesn't last long, and soon he finds himself in the strange and dangerous world of unsanctioned MMA bouts - all while trying to raise a family.

Release date January 22, 2021

Violence C
Sexual Content A-
Profanity D
Substance Use A

Why is Born a Champion rated R? The MPAA rated Born a Champion R for language throughout.

Parent Movie Review

Former Marine and Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert Mickey Kelley (Sean Patrick Flanery) has been hired by a wealthy Sheikh to teach his son the martial art – but during his stay in Dubai, Mickey happens to bump into Layla (Katrina Bowden), a paralegal in town with some clients. The two rapidly fall in love and are soon married. But life back in the States is hard. To make ends meet, Mickey agrees to a dangerous underground MMA-style fight which puts him against Marco Blaine (Edson Barboza), a reckless young fighter who disregards the few rules and beats Mickey – badly enough to detach his retina and prevent him from ever fighting in a legal bout again. When the tape leaks, years later, interest in a rematch skyrockets. But neither Mickey nor his family want to risk the medical consequences of a bad fight… do they?

This is a cookie cutter sports movie. If you’ve seen Rocky, you’ll know why so much of this movie seems familiar. And, like Sly Stallone’s Italian Stallion, Born a Champion is focused on the importance of family, love, and personal faith. Mickey is consummately polite and largely even-tempered, dedicated to his wife and son, and determined to be the best father and husband he can be. That’s hardly the standard in Hollywood dramas, which tend to show men at their worst.

In fact, the only thing about this movie that gets it an “R” rating is the profanity. Everything else is spick and span, with no sex, nudity, or drinking. There’s barely even any inter-personal rudeness. On the flip side, there is a fair bit of sports violence, which includes the devastating (and unsportsmanlike) beating Mickey takes in the first fight. Watching a guy get hit so hard his retina detaches isn’t necessarily my idea of a good time, but it is central to the plot and isn’t glamorized.

Born a Champion isn’t a perfect movie, but it is surprisingly heartfelt and sincere. It’s full of stupid machismo, big fights, and pretty women – but it’s also a story about respect and determination and kindness. I don’t know what else to tell you: sure, I could ramble about the weird and totally unnecessary frame narrative, or call it out for riding a bunch of cliches, or point out that it fails to address some of the deeper moral issues of working in the UAE. But I don’t really want to. It’s a nice enough movie, and I don’t have the heart to beat up on it for a few flaws. There aren’t enough movies this sincere these days, and if it comes with some dopey cliches, then so be it.

Directed by Alex Ranarivelo. Starring Dennis Quaid, Katrina Bowden, and Sean Patrick Flanery. Theatrical release January 22, 2021. Updated

Watch the trailer for Born a Champion

Born a Champion
Rating & Content Info

Why is Born a Champion rated R? Born a Champion is rated R by the MPAA for language throughout.

Violence: Several MMA style fights are shown, which means a number of serious beatings. A street fight is briefly shown. An individual is killed in an off-screen car accident.
Sexual Content: There is a reference to sexual harassment and prostitution, neither of which are seen.
Profanity: There are 31 extreme profanities and 17 scatological curses.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adult characters are occasionally seen drinking socially.

Page last updated

Born a Champion Parents' Guide

How does Mickey’s determination effect his life, both positively and negatively? Do you think the costs are worth what he gains?

MMA is a particularly and deliberately violent sport. How do you feel about violence in sports? Do you think that you can ethically consume consensual violence, or is all violence, even recreational violence, inherently bad? People have a variety of opinions on the subject. What are the rules for violence in sports where you live?

Home Video

Related home video titles:

This film borrows from a long tradition of sports movies, particularly the Rocky franchise. It is also, therefore, pretty similar to Creed and Creed II, which are a sequel franchise to Rocky. Born a Champion also shares a great deal with The Karate Kid.