Thursday, August 23, 2012
Review: The Great Debaters
Starring: Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker, Kimberly Elise
Length: 126 min.
IMDB Summary: A drama based on the true story of Melvin B. Tolson, a professor at Wiley College Texas. In 1935, he inspired students to form the school's first debate team, which went on to challenge Harvard in the national championship.
After watching The Great Debaters, I walked away and forgot about it the next day. The acting, directing and story were good quality, especially in the historical accuracies and underlying racial atmosphere portrayed. The lack of a "wow" reaction to this film is due to the slow plot, which at times feels disjointed, and the lack of originality. You get the feeling it's all been done before, an inspirational story where a few individuals achieve a victory over the prevailing prejudice of the day. While this film conveys its message with more elegance and style than films such as Remember the Titans, Freedom Writers or Akeelah and the Bee, there is really nothing to set it apart...there's no football, journal writing or spelling bees. There's a high school debate, which involves an onslaught of researching and classroom sequences that cause the film to drag its heels. Despite the thrill of the actual debates, the plot of The Great Debaters is stiflingly predictable and likely to elicit yawns. Not to be politically incorrect or historically inaccurate, but I might have liked to see the debaters lose the final debate, just for some variety. Although a fine historical account and filled with good quality acting, The Great Debaters is forgettable because it lacks the special something, the undefinable zest, that makes a good film great.
Some race-related violence, language and brief sexuality
Image from wikipedia.org