The Gabby Douglas Story
by Phil Boatwright

FILM SYNOPSIS: The true story of irrepressible gymnastics phenomenon Gabby Douglas, who thrilled the world and captured America’s heart by winning two gold medals in spectacular fashion at the 2012 London Olympics, is coming to the Lifetime Channel on February 1.  It stars Regina King, Imani Hakim, and Sydney Mikayla.

Produced by Sony Pictures Television and directed by Gregg Champion, director of Lifetime’s blockbuster original movie Amish Grace, The Gabby Douglas Story details Gabby’s rise against overwhelming odds to become the first African American ever to be named Individual All-Around Champion in Artistic Gymnastics at an Olympic Games. 

PREVIEW REVIEW: It’s a positive movie. Positive messages, positive themes, positive performances (especially from Regina King). They’re a supportive family who believe in God and pray to Jesus. Nice to see that in a TV-made movie. And in an era when we see so much negative behavior from pop celebrities, it’s refreshing to see people with a dream, working together to accomplish it, aided by others. One almost feels like a Christmas Grinch to analyze further. So, before I do, I want to reiterate – it’s a positive movie. There are far worse elements on television to eat up your time. If you wish to leave it at that, this would be a good time to switch channels. I mean, stop reading.

While I applaud the filmmaker for sprinkling hopeful messages out to prospective little gymnasts much like Tinker Bell with pixie dust, the film, produced by Gabby herself, fails to achieve anything worth awarding.

At the opening, we are shown that the father can’t make a living, so the mother dumps him after years of begging family members for financial assistance. Before the first commercial, he drops off kids and wife at her mother’s house, then drives off, never to be seen or heard from again. If this departure has been hurtful to kids or spouse, the film never explores that fact. He’s simply forgotten. Perhaps that was Gabby’s way of getting back at her real father. Remember, she’s one of the producers.

Then Gabby’s mom gets sick. Headaches. What comes of that? Not much. We never learn what ails her. Does it get better, worse? Who knows? This is Abby’s story and everyone else in it seems more like a prop than a person.

Though I appreciated the sacrificing siblings, they’re just too giving. There’s never an argument and we learn nothing of their dreams or accomplishments. They’re just more props to further Gabby’s story. And what few problems Gabby has, are easily worked out by the next commercial break. Problems, like people in this production, merely serve to get us from commercial A to commercial Z.

The clunky dialogue is meant to be inspirational: “A champion isn’t made of muscle; a champion is made of heart.” Like the other story elements, speech in this film is shallow at best. The actual gymnastic meets are sparingly spaced out; with the actress posing at the end of each vault after footage of the real Gaby (or someone else) is sloppily edited into the scene.

And finally, my dissatisfaction with a film about an Olympian hopeful is based on a prejudice. While being the best at something (it doesn’t matter what) is a part of the American dream, it’s hard for me to get worked up over an achievement that benefits the achiever alone. Make peace in the Middle East, cure cancer, figure out Obamacare, then we’ll talk.

The Gabby Douglas Story may appeal to viewers decidedly looking for entertainment that doesn’t tug too much at the stress levels. But for me, it fails to get a gold, a silver or a bronze.

Premieres Saturday, February 1, at 8pm ET/PT.