This is great family viewing for the peek it offers into the very different world of the deaf. Never Give Up is the true story of Brad Minns, left deaf by a high fever at the age of three, back in 1968. His parents made the unusual decision at that time, to teach Minns to lip-read and have him try to take on the challenge of a regular school, instead of going to a deaf institution.
While his classmates and even his teacher aren't all that welcoming, the game of tennis becomes an outlet and a refuge. Here his hearing loss doesn't make him all that different. It's still not an even playing field – deaf players can't hear how the ball sounds coming off their opponent's racket – but as Minn's first instructor tells him, he can use his eyes and his heart to make up the difference. When Minns beats his big brother, he starts realizing he could become great at this.
One of the more unlikely tennis comebacks serves as the backbone to this film – it opens with Minns down two sets, and down five games to none in the third. In repeated flashback throughout the match we learn about how he got here and how those early life challenges and triumphs gave him the perseverance to keep fighting even when he's that far down.
The only caution to note would be.a hazing scene. When Minns tries out for the US national deaf tennis team, someone hides his rackets right before his first match. Then, after he wins and heads to the showers, they hide his clothes. With no other option, Minns heads to the team meeting "wearing" nothing but a 2 foot by three foot sign which reads "Used tennis balls here." That probably sounds worse than it actually is - the signage has him covered more modestly than even the biggest pair of shorts.
I wanted to give this a 7, because our whole family enjoyed it. Who doesn't like a family-friendly, sports underdog story, that teaches you a bit about a different world, and even acknowledges God with a few quiet and respectful nods?
But I give 6s for good films that have something notably subpar, and that's the acting here. It's just not very good. It's not so bad that it's annoying, but it is in the range of what you'd find in a low-end Hallmark movie.
I'll add that there are some nice production touches too, including the soundtrack featuring Huey Lewis' The Power of Love (playing when Minns was down 40 to love), and some unique "sketched" opening titles. The tennis match itself is solidly shot – believable if not all that suspenseful.
So, a 6, but significantly, a 6 that everyone in our family enjoyed. Never Give Up is in theaters across the US starting on Sept. 1, and will be available to stream in Canada some time after.