Disney made their latest foray into sports movies with 2020’s Safety. This new film tells the true story of former Clemson football player Ray McElrathbey, who housed and cared for his younger brother on-campus during the 2006 season. Here’s a review!
Note: This review contains spoilers. If you have not yet seen the movie, it is available for streaming on Disney+.
Ray McElrathbey, a scholarship football player for the Clemson Tigers, begins his freshman year in 2006. He is determined to balance his schoolwork with his football commitment. Partway through the year, Ray gets a call from his younger brother Fahmarr. The boys’ mother has been admitted to rehab and Fahmarr is no longer living at home.
Ray decides to hide Fahmarr in his on-campus dorm to avoid having his brother live with questionable influences. Taking care of his brother adds an extremely big commitment onto Ray’s schoolwork and football schedule. Eventually, Fahmarr is discovered and Ray must come clean to his coaches about the situation.
The Clemson coaches tell Ray he must move off campus with Fahmarr, but they do not discipline him. He begins working part-time jobs to afford their apartment and other expenses. Eventually, the surrounding community begin chipping in and helping the McElrathbeys with rides to school and other tasks. Ray begins showing improvements on the football field.
Just before the Bowden Bowl, Ray learns that the NCAA is investigating his situation. They allege that he has been receiving impermissible benefits from the community and may be considered ineligible. After the McElrathbeys’ mother requires more time in rehab, Ray gets her to sign over custody of Fahmarr to him. In a hearing with the NCAA, Ray convinces them to allow him to receive benefits to take care of Fahmarr. Ray found himself in a situation where he had to choose between his brother and playing football. He saved both.
Despite the pedestrian script, the acting and score of this film are surprisingly good. Jay Reeves is excellent as Ray McElrathbey, and Javien Jackson delivers a solid performance as Fahmarr. The supporting cast slightly elevates ‘Safety’ above your average sports movie.
However, some narrative arcs seem to go nowhere. Initially, Ray fails to get along with the Clemson team captain, but this is resolved with no real explanation. It’s almost as if they wanted a villain setup, but they realized partway through that the NCAA was the real villain of the film.
This true story was not one I had heard before, but I think it’s definitely one that deserved a movie. ‘Safety’ is not groundbreaking, and it does little to distance itself from other “cliché” sports movies. If anything, watch this film for the performances and the heartwarming story, but don’t expect anything incredible or unconventional from the script.
Overall Score: 6/10
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