• Nate Adams

Review: Harmless 'Safety' sticks to Disney sports formula


Courtesy of Disney+

Cheesy, uplifting, and harmless, Disney+’s based-on-a-true-story “Safety” fits right at home in the studio’s sports movie canon. It’s no “Remember the Titans,” or “Miracle,” but it has heart and a message worth hearing over the gloomy holiday season. 


Inspired by the true story of 2006 Clemson University defensive back Ray McElrathBey, “Safety” is a clean, family friendly film that sticks to the basics and doesn’t go overboard on the plot. Jay Reeves is Ray who snagged a full ride to the prestigious South Carolina school to play football. Plucked from the inner city suburbs, Ray is tossed in the peculiar situation of looking after his younger brother, Fey (Thaddeus J. Mixson), after their mother is arrested for drug possession. 


Instead of sending Fey into the foster care system while mom receives treatment, Ray decides to smuggle the young tyke on campus, secretly housing him in his dorm room. Suddenly, Ray becomes Fey’s primary caregiver while trying to juggle football practice and his studies, where unlike most athletes, he’s working on a tough psych degree for post college life. 


“Safety” is an inspirational story about the bond of brotherhood and looking out for family, which is the perfect bundle for the Disney+ catalog. Nothing is practically memorable: there’s strict head coaches (James Badge Dale and Matthew Glave) who bark about how football is life and nothing else matters, the obligatory love interest (Corinne Foxx), and a final, emotional showdown that puts Ray and Fey’s future in jeopardy. In other words, a Disney movie. 


As “Safety” moves along, the secret of Fey gets out and everyone, predictably, builds solid G-rated friendships and rallies around Ray’s cause. Director Reginald Hudlin (“Marshall”) doesn’t put an emphasis on football and keeps most of the focus on the siblings (the football sequences, it should be said, are less than lively, which considering the archival footage Disney has thanks to ESPN, is surprising). It has the feel of a TV movie, with watered down production values but sticks to McElrathBey’s story in a manner that’s endearing. Jay Reeves and newcomer Thaddeus J. Mixson have a nice repertoire, selling their brotherly love respectively but anyone who throws on “Safety” knows what to expect: an impressive, heart tugging story retooled in a glossy Disney package. Exactly as advertised. 


Maybe check it out, and then watch “Remember the Titans” instead. 


Grade: B- 


SAFETY streams on Disney+ starting Friday, December 11th.