Under the Stadium Lights parents guide

Under the Stadium Lights Parent Guide

Football is merely the connective tissue holding the characters together in a drawn out group therapy session.

Overall B-

Digital on Demand: This film follows the true story of the 2009 Abilene High School football team as they take on the number one team in Texas for the state championship.

Release date June 4, 2021

Violence C
Sexual Content B
Profanity B-
Substance Use D

Why is Under the Stadium Lights rated PG-13? The MPAA rated Under the Stadium Lights PG-13 for some thematic elements, violence and bloody images, drug material and language.

Run Time: 109 minutes

Parent Movie Review

It isn’t easy to be a young man in Abilene, Texas in 2009, but for some of them, playing on the high school football team gives them a chance to change the trajectories of their lives. Star quarterback Ronnell Sims (Carter Redwood) has been worried about his frequently absent and drug-addicted father (Eddie George). Boo (Germain Arroyo) is troubled by his brother Zay (Nicholas Delgado), who has been dealing drugs for a local gang and pressuring Boo to join. And for police officer Chad Mitchell (Milo Gibson), looking after these boys takes him away from his family more than he or they would like. But the game against the number one team in the state is looming, and they’re all going to have to be at their absolute best, in spite of everything, if they want to have a chance.

There’s a bog-standard sports movie in here somewhere, but the filmmakers left out a few major ingredients. For something billed as a football movie, there’s almost no football (apart, of course, from the “Big Game” in the third act). Football is just the connective tissue holding the characters together in what can best be described as a drawn-out group therapy session. Most of the film happens within an unusual frame narrative as the players discuss their feelings and experiences the night before the “Big Game”. We skip from character to character, and most of their stories are completely unrelated to the other stories. The major problem with this approach is that some characters don’t get introduced until midway through the film. The result is a very scattered story, and it’s much harder to keep track of where you are in the story than it should be.

Apart from the confusing framing and sloppy editing, there are some real casting problems. Most of the main characters are passable, but some of the side characters are clearly not comfortable in front of a camera. I don’t know if director Todd Randall put out a casting call for amateur actors in Abilene or what, but the result is a movie where half of the characters don’t talk or behave like real human beings.

Now, that’s not to say that the true story on which this is based isn’t an inspiring story of young men overcoming incredible adversity. They are in some truly harrowing situations, involving gang violence, drugs, and even a homicide. Unfortunately, that’s also where the film’s content issues come from. Under the Stadium Lights feels like an after school special, overly focused on its characters’ troubled lives and overlooking the structure of the story. It’s suitable for teenagers…if you can find any willing to sit through it.

Directed by Todd Randal. Starring Laurence Fishburn, Milo Gibson, and Abigail Hawk. Running time: 109 minutes. Theatrical release June 4, 2021. Updated

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Under the Stadium Lights
Rating & Content Info

Why is Under the Stadium Lights rated PG-13? Under the Stadium Lights is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some thematic elements, violence and bloody images, drug material and language.

Violence: People are severely beaten in a scene of gang violence. A man is shown dead and bleeding.
Sexual Content: There is a reference to prison rape.
Profanity: There is one use of scatological profanity and occasional use of mild curses and terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adults are shown under the influence of drugs. A teenager is shown bagging cocaine for sale.

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Under the Stadium Lights Parents' Guide

Why is high school football so enduringly popular? Does your community have school teams that draw large crowds? What motivates young men to compete on these teams? How much money is spent on this sport (and other high school athletics)? What are some of the risks associated with playing football?

USA Football: There’s nothing like high school football and we need to remember that

The New York Times: Inside Football’s Campaign to Save the Game

The Wall Street Journal: The Uncertain Future of High School Football in America

The Atlantic: The White Flight from Football

The Atlantic: The Case Against High School Sports

Loved this movie? Try these books…

This film is based on the non-fiction book by Al Pickett, Team of the Century: The Greatest High School Football Team in Texas.

Home Video

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There are certainly a lot of options for football fans at the movies: Rudy, Friday Night Lights, Remember the Titans, Safety, and We Are Marshall are all good options. If you want to learn more about the concussion risk that haunts football, you can watch the story of Dr. Bennet Omalu and his studies of brain injuries in football in Concussion.