DVD Giveaway: “23 Blast” (US and Canada, 2/16)

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Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. 
23 Blast DVD
I loved the movie, 23 Blast, and I hope you’ll keep reading my review to see why.  I had to start my review this way, because I’d never heard of this movie before and it had been sitting around on my coffee table for awhile because I wasn’t terribly excited about watching it.  Since popping it into the DVD player yesterday, I’ve already watched it second time – I liked this movie, very much.  It took any misgivings I had about watching it and dispelled every one.  I enthusiastically recommend this movie!  My daughter is nine years old and the movie is PG-13 (stay with me, don’t stop reading if you have kids under 13!).

23Blast High FiveThe Story

23 Blast is based on the amazingly true story of Travis Freeman. A typical teenager growing up in a small town in Kentucky, Travis is a local hero on and off the football field.  He plays receiver, and his best friend, Jerry is the quarterback.  Together, they are an amazing combination.  Jerry is the wild one of the pair – enjoying fun pranks and charming many around him.  Their childhood friend Ashley, even plays on their pee wee team.
When the three are junior in high school, something happens that will change all their lives.  Spoiler alert!  This part of the story is on the DVD cover and widely publicized, but I think you will enjoy the movie more if you don’t know.  So if you want, stop reading here and jump to the next section.
23Blast Travis and Ashley
Travis is struck by an infection that results in the loss of his sight.  Suddenly, he can not only no longer play football, but faces having to possibly leave home and everything he knows.  He becomes withdrawn, refusing to learn to deal with his disability, see friends, or even leave his room.  His strong faith is shaken.  And not only Travis’ life is changed, Jerry finds that he can’t play without his best friend and is relegated to second string.  His formerly innocent pranks turn more serious as does his alcohol issues.  Ashley, loses her best friends as everything changes for the trio.
Finally, under the influence of parents who love him, a mobility coach who challenges him, a football coach who refuses to accept limitations, and a best friend who won’t give up laughter, Travis regains his fighting spirit.  With individual effort combined with team work, we see that even things we think are impossible, can still come true.

The Cast

Coach Farris

Familiar faces in the cast include Stephen Lang (numerous films including Avatar, tv series including Law & Order , and Broadway) plays Coach Farris.  Kim Zimmer, Daytime Emmy winner for her roles in soap operas, plays Travis’ mother.  Dylan Baker, also with numerous film (Selma), television (The Good Wife), and Broadway credits, plays Travis’ father.  Timothy Busfield, West Wing and thirtysomething, plays a misguided school administrator.  Alexa PenaVega (Spy Kids) is excellent as Travis’ friend.

Mark Hapka plays the lead role of Travis Freeman.  He’s 32 years old!  Yikes.  I would never, ever have guessed.  He plays the role of a high school student so well he had me fooled!  My daughter who has recently taken an interest in acting, commented many times on how well he portrayed the post-change Travis.  Jerry, is played by one of the writer’s of the story, Bram Hoover.  He nails the combination of heart-of-gold, fun-loving, but tortured young man.

My Take

I thought the story of 23 Blast was inspiring, the acting excellent, and the messages important.  My criteria for favorite movies include ones that I think about again and again, that have multiple levels, that I can watch more than once, that teach and surprise me.  23 Blast did all those things.  I strongly recommend seeing 23 Blast.

I loved the soundtrack also!  The music was awesome and one of my favorite scenes was Travis and Jerry singing “Elevator”.  When you see the movie, listen for the music.

The story is an amazing one, but was muddied a bit in the film with side stories that weren’t fully developed.  It’s difficult to compress one big story into 98 minutes, it didn’t succeed to compress five.  There were too many shadows of stories that were underdeveloped.  For example, Travis’ love interests.  He seemed to have a relationship with a cheerleader that dropped him later in the movie, but it wasn’t clearly defined enough.  And then his relationship with Ashley – explored more than with Molly, but still not enough in my opinion.  The problem that Timothy Busfield’s character had with Jerry Baker was also alluded to but not as clearly explained as it could have been.  My family are huge football fans, so we caught the play calling, position consequences, recruiting issues, etc. but I’m not sure that everyone would have.  I think the football-specific story components could have been explored and explained better, as well.

Because of the PG-13 rating, I wanted to preview the movie before I let my 9 year old see it.  Rosie has been pretty sheltered.  We try our best to only allow age appropriate media – Kids PBS, Disney, no news and no commercials.  I look at the themes of movies as much as the misuse of language, alcohol and sex.  Rosie tends to be a “worrier” and I was concerned about the angle of severe illness striking a young person.  We’ve experienced that sadly, in our family, but it happened before Rosie was born and I think movies can sometimes make things feel even more real that reality, because your viewing is so concentrated.  And as it turn out, she did have many questions about that, but I think she was ready for the issue.

In the additional features of the film, the producers mention that the PG-13 rating was given primarily because of teen drinking.  They felt the problems of one of the main characters that came from addiction were such an integral part of the story (the movie story and the true story) that they wanted to include it despite rating consequences.  I prepped Rosie before the drinking scenes and we’ve already talked about those issues, so even though she is nine, it wasn’t problematic for us.  It was very isolated to only one character.

There were so many “teachable moments” in this film that I highly recommend watching it with your appropriate-age children.  I talked through it with my daughter, saying things like, “Wasn’t he brave to do that?”.  “Do you think that was a good choice or she could have done that differently?”  “How do you think you would feel if ______ happened to you?”  And today, the next day after she saw it, I asked her what she thought of it.  She said enthusiastically that she loved it and she was surprised to like a “football movie” so much.

To Learn More:
Watch the trailer HERE!

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