“Queen of Katwe” (2016)
Directed by Mira Nair
Running Time 124 Minutes, Rated PG
3.5 Mitch’s out of 5
Mark this in the Disney ‘feel good’ movie category. Is that such a bad thing? Rhetorical question, so don’t answer. Also, I can’t hear you talking at your screen anyways. Disney’s “Queen of Katwe” is the latest underdog story of people rising to heights that they weren’t meant for, or there wouldn’t be a movie made for them.
I’m pretty sure we see young Ugandan actress Madina Nalwanga grow up before our eyes as Phiona Mutesi, a child living in the slums who when we meet her can’t read but against all odds reaches the tops of being a chess champion. Phiona comes from such poverty that the other poor kids tease her for being so poor, but she takes a liking to the game and excels with the help of local church leader and all around good guy, Robert Katende (David Oyelowo), and the tight grip of her stern, but loving, single mother Nakku (Lupita Nyong'o).
All the notes of a weepy movie playout, and guess what, I needed some tissues throughout. Those paint by the number notes will only get you so far, it’s the tremendous work of David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong'o that take you past the cliches and transcend them.
As far as being a ‘sports’ movie (which it wants to be at times) in the lines of chess counterpart “Searching for Bobby Fischer”, it is but a pawn bringing zero tension to the outcome. Don’t go to “Queen of Katwe” for ESPN highlights, but if you like heartwarming tearjerkers than this film will do.