INCLUDE_DATA

THE GREAT DEBATERS (2008) ** DVD review by COOP

Posted on July 14th, 2008
Posted on July 14th, 2008

I have an affinity for underdog stories. I also like films where those some underdogs succeed despite their race, gender or oppressive circumstances. “The Great Debaters” fits this category, yet I consider it a lesser effort despite the high profile celebrities involved.

Oprah produced it. Denzel Washington directed and starred in it. Forrest Whitaker co-starred. It’s a true story about a debate team from an all-black university who beats an all-white Harvard University in the 1930’s. Should’ve been great, right?

Unlikable characters, boring direction, poor acting and a one-dimensional storytelling approach marred what could’ve been the feel-good movie of the year. Denzel’s character was too smug and cocky to make a connection with the audience and the hero character of Henry Lowe (Nate Parker) had mean-spirited meltdowns so severe that it was hard to like him once he recovered. Jurnee Smollette, playing the only female debater on the team, looked beautiful but it was obvious she had no charisma or acting talent the second she opened her mouth. The always excellent Forrest Whitaker got little screen time. The films one bright spot came in the form of Denzel Whitaker (apparently no relation to Washington or F. Whitaker) who plays James Farmer Jr., the teams 14 year-old prodigy member. This kid has acting talent and brought life to the film’s only character capable of winning over the audience. Although his character had one ugly tantrum-meltdown, he delivers the best moments of the film, including his final speech at the end. I want to see this guy in more stuff. His soulful eyes project a range of emotion few child actors can accomplish.

“Glory Road” is an example of how this type of film can be done right without slapping the audience with a heavy, self-righteous hand. It’s hard to make the full range of audience members connect when all the white characters in the film are 100% evil. The only pathos shown by whites in the entire film is from the debate judges when they award the protagonists a victory, but they barely have speaking parts and no development whatsoever. A more dimensional range in the minor characters in the film could’ve cleared up this problem.

Although it’s a poor script, it’s a terrific story and it deserves to be told. The ending is designed to win the audience over despite the flaws and it succeeds, but I couldn’t overlook all the times I sighed during the film when I noticed substandard filmmaking. Denzel Washington hasn’t convinced me he can direct without his ego fogging up the lens. Hopefully Oprah and company will aim for script and acting quality next time. In the meantime, see “Glory Road.” It’s not the best film of its type but it scratches the itch that “The Great Debaters” failed to reach.

See the trailer for “Glory Road” below…

No Comments •

Comments

Search
Search Form
Trailer for the award-winning short PRISMA…


A corporate promotional VHS tape from 1984 conceals a brain-altering signal which is said to grant increased health, longevity and psychic powers to those who watch it. View at your own risk...

WINNER: SPECIAL JURY PRIZE, 2017 Oxford Film Festival

WINNER: BEST EXPERIMENTAL FILM, 2017 FantaSci Short Film Festival

SEMI-FINALIST: 2017 NanoCon International Science-Fiction Film Festival

NOMINEE: BEST ANIMATION, 2017 End of Days Film Festival

NOMINEE: BEST GRAPHICS, 2017 FantaSci Short Film Festival

OFFICIAL SELECTION:
2017 Crossroads Film Festival
2017 Clarksdale Film Festival
2017 Twisted Dreams Film Festival
2017 Tupelo Film Festival
2017 NanoCon International Sci-Fi Film Festival
2017 FantaSci Short Film Festival
2017 End of Days Film Festival

Trailer for the lost short GOD MAKER…


Northern Mississippi 1932:
In a cabin in the woods, a blind blues guitarist will discover his destiny from a lovesick goddess who seeks to corrupt his soul.

GOD MAKER remains unfinished and in limbo for now, but the trailer expresses the mood and imagery intended for the project...

Coop’s award-winning 48 hour short film trailer for REGRESS…


Told in reverse, this experimental made-in-48-hours film begins with a shocking murder then backtracks (like a viewer rewinding a VHS tape) to reveal the chilling origins of this tragedy.

WINNER: BEST SHORT FILM at the 2013 Clarksdale Film Festival...
NOMINATED: BEST DIRECTING by the 2012 48hr. Guerrilla Film Challenge (international contest)...
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Crossroads Film Festival

Watch Coop’s award-winning short film THE BEST DAY…


WINNER: 2012 MAGNOLIA FILM FESTIVAL "Best Homegrown Film"
WINNER: 2012 SEATTLE TRUE INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL "Best Scream"

OFFICIAL SELECTION:
2012 OXFORD FILM FESTIVAL
2012 CLARKSDALE FILM FESTIVAL
2012 CROSSROADS FILM FESTIVAL
2012 NORTHEAST MISSISSIPPI FILM FESTIVAL
2012 ATLANTA INDIE HORROR FILM FESTIVAL
2012 OTHERFEST
2012 MISSISSIPPI INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
2012 SUN AND SAND FILM FESTIVAL

Morgan Freeman asks Coop a question at THE BEST DAY premiere! Video below…


My short film THE BEST DAY premiered in October 2011 at the Delta Cinema in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Little did I know I had a special guest in the audience who was about to ask me a question during the Q&A. Yep, I got a little flustered when I saw who it was.

The Small Town Critic’s SCREENWRITING SERVICES
Follow Coop on Twitter...
    follow me on twitter
    Follow smalltowncritic on Twitter
    Archives
    Subscribe via Email!

    Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

    Subscribe via RSS feed!