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Movie Review: The Great Debaters

Alternate Title: Word

Story: If you want to have your spirits raised this holiday season check out the latest feel good product from Harpo (Oprah) productions, directed by Denzel Washington. It is a fictionalized take on the true story of Wiley College, the small, all black institution in 1935 Texas and how they took on the all white college big guys in a National debate. It was written by Robert Eisele with a story by Jeffrey Porro.

The good news is that this film has terrific production values. The feel, look and tenor of that horrific racist time in Texas is captured and certainly heartfelt. The bad news is that it is so very formulaic. I longed for some surprises along the way but sadly, there were none coming forth to me. That said - I can still recommend this to one and all. Be sure to stay for the 'what happened to them' before the credits role.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste has true meaning is this entertaining holiday film.

Acting: Denzel Washington as debate coach, poet, Union organizer and general hero to one and all is a perfect fit for the man with the million dollar smile. Forest Whitaker as a preacher, teacher is always right on target. Young Denzel Whitaker (no relation), was wonderful as the immature, but soon to be CORE hero, James Farmer. Nate Parker as Henry Lowe has a long career ahead of him. Jurnee Smollett as the female debater was excellent too. The ensemble supporting cast were all first rate and included: John Heard, Kimberly Elise, Jermaine Williams, J.D. Evermore, Justice Leak

Predilection: None

Critters: A dead pig, horses and livestock.

Food: Fried chicken (really), sweet potato pie and sweets at high tea.

Sex Spectrum: A very short sex scene viewed from a blurry mirror.

Blatant Product Placement: Wiley College could use our help.

Soundtrack: Appropriate and at times driven to sappy, soaring stuff.

Opening Titles: A montage of music and images with simply the name of the film.

Theater Audience: It was a packed house for an advance screening and there was applauding at the film's end.

Weather: The weather was nice in 1935 Texas.

Sappy Factor: 2

Quirky Meter: 0

Squirm Scale: Racism makes my blood boil and skin crawl.

Drift Factor: I started to look at my watch after about 70 minutes.

Predictability Level: High

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: No

Big Screen or Rental: Either would do.

Length: A few words over two hours.