For most people, Lifetime movies are basically a love ‘em or hate ‘em proposition. And for anyone who really enjoys them, it’s typically more of a guilty pleasure than anything else.
Even if they aren’t the stereotypical man-does-the-woman-wrong revenge tales starring someone like Jennifer Love Hewitt or Tori Spelling, the stories ripped from actual headlines are often far worse (see: Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy starring “Nashville” actress Hayden Panettiere) because the script simply lacks the gravitas to be taken seriously.
Considering how it’s timed perfectly with the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, it would be equally easy to dismiss The Gabby Douglas Story as nothing more than a low-quality, opportunistic ratings grab. In what’s a thoroughly welcome surprise, however, The Gabby Douglas Story is several notches above typical Lifetime fare. It’s moving and downright watchable.
With strong production values and acting, especially from veteran performer Regina King (Our Family Wedding, Ray, Jerry Maguire) as Gabby’s steadfast mother, The Gabby Douglas Story is easy to get wrapped up in. The story of a family who overcame so much on the road to worldwide success, the filmmakers still understood the power of restraint in telling a true-life story.
No doubt, stories that emphasize the value of going for your dreams, no matter how bleak the situation seems, are nothing new. But the way that faith plays such a strong supporting role in The Gabby Douglas Story is remarkable all the same. Before Gabby Douglas was Gabby Douglas the Olympian, her family was dealt a less than promising hand in life. With a father unable to hold down a job, Gabby’s mom, Natalie Hawkins, was determined to make a better future for her four young children.
Never failing to rely on God, Natalie not only put a roof over her kids’ heads and food in their bellies, but she set an example of how faith is never easy in life’s most challenging moments but how it’ll sustain your nonetheless. Of course, these are the same principles that will inform Gabby’s own journey as an athlete, but the connection is never forced or portrayed in an overly cheesy way.
While some of the movie’s musical score could’ve been dialed down a little and the dialogue could’ve been a bit sharper at times, there’s so many positives about The Gabby Douglas Story. What sticks out most is just how many people it takes to help make someone a success. Talent itself is never enough. In Gabby’s case, the stalwart support of her mom and her siblings was unbelievable. Her sisters and brother not only recognized her talent and weren’t jealous of it, but they were willing to sacrifice their own activities so Gabby could truly have a shot at the big time.
The way this family stuck together and fought for Gabby to make her way from girl with a talent to gymnastics elite was nothing short of extraordinary. In fact, it makes you see the Olympics in an entirely new way, too, because one can’t help but think of all the sacrifices that were made on behalf of all those participating.