GALA D: Mira Nair. Uganda/South.
GALA D: Mira Nair. Uganda/South Africa. 124 min. Sep 10, 6:30 pm, Roy Thomson Hall Sep 11, noon, Princess Of Wales Sep 17, 3 pm, Ryerson. Rating: NN
There are movies that please crowds, and there are movies determined to be crowd-pleasers. Queen Of Katwe is the latter, a brightly coloured and insistently upbeat true story that never stops reminding you how inspirational it is.
A biopic about Ugandan chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi (played in the film by newcomer Madina Nalwanga), who emerged from the slums of Kampala to compete in the 39th Chess Olympiad in Moscow in 2011, the film offers solid performances from David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o as Phiona’s teacher and mother and an excellent sense of place, immersing us in Phiona’s world and showing us exactly how hard she has to work to break out of it.
But either director Nair (Monsoon Wedding, The Namesake, Amelia) or distributor Disney didn’t trust that material to play, so Phiona’s story has been inspirationalized within an inch of its life – its conflicts oversimplified, its musical score relentless, its uplift exhausting.
They’ve taken a great true story and turned it into an easily digestible, utterly predictable formula picture.