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Thursday, February 25, 2016


This fact-suggested/modest-to-a-fault/Urban Inspirational stars Cuba Gooding Jr. as an ex-felon getting a hold on his life, and the lives of a few high school detention regulars, starting up a chess club. Fill in the blanks. Whatever interest remains here is less in what happens (you’ll guess every film-school consecrated story-beat) then in wondering if there’s still an audience waiting to see one of these uplift sagas. General Answer: YES! Especially if you tie it into some ethnic or religious niche market and aren’t ashamed to push old buttons in ways that seem new & sincere. Specific Answer: NO! Co-writer/director Jake Goldberger tics off all the boxes, but misses just the sort of detail you need to help us feel context & consequence. The film shows up D.O.A., assuming you don’t carry a torch for '80s cable pics. No surprise a token theatrical release topped out at 5 thou.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: The modern Urban Inspirational probably started with Edward James Olmos in STAND AND DELIVER/’88: mathematics & Hispanics in for chess & Blacks.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: As writer/director, Goldberger skimps so badly on info needed to build up rooting interest you wonder about possible dropped shots from a crazy-tight schedule. Even the foreignness of the game is barely explored/exploited. On the other hand, we are spared the showy CGI visualizations of chess moves & countermoves a larger budget might have tempted Goldberger into.

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