The Queen of Katwe is the latest in Disney’s series of films that retell the true story of inspiring, underdog sports figures (the official genre is called ‘Biographical Sports Drama’). They started a tradition of releasing these types of films almost annually with Cool Runnings back in the early nineties and has gone on to include stories such as Remember the Titans, Miracle, The Rookie, Million Dollar Arm, McFarland USA, and a slew of others.
It tells the true story of a young girl selling corn on the streets of rural Uganda whose world rapidly changes when she is introduced to the game of chess, and, as a result of the support she receives from her family and community, is instilled with the confidence and determination she needs to pursue her dream of becoming an international chess champion.
I am inclined to adore this genre of film, especially when it’s produced by Disney (Miracle is one of my favorite films of all time, with Rudy making the top 10), so my expectations were a bit high, especially after the absolutely stellar McFarland USA that came out last year. I’m happy to report that while the quality of the filmmaking was a bit rocky, the film ultimately does its job in leaving the audience inspired and moved.
It’s hard to overstate how well acted this film is. Both David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o pour their hearts and souls into their performances. Both portrayals are astonishingly raw and realistic. The newcomer Madina Nalwanga does a fine job as well, and so do the other child actors.
The film has some really heartbreaking moments, so I would advise against taking small children. It also has some really great laugh out loud moments though too.
Other reviewers have pointed out how realistically this film shows the abject poverty of some parts of Africa, and I have to agree. It was a humbling experience to see it and I’m glad that they didn’t sugarcoat it.
With all this praise said, the movie isn’t without its glaring flaws.
The story meandered a lot. I realize that this was a true story, but the structure of the film felt muddled and that it could have benefited from some better editing and screenwriting.
Unfortunately, the sound design of the film is really sub par. It was pretty clear from the beginning that they had to re-dub some lines (rerecord the actors saying their lines because the original recording was unintelligible). While this practice is very normal for films, the re-dubbing was done very poorly in certain scenes. Eventually it wasn’t as noticeable, but it was a rookie mistake that took me out of the story.
Ultimately Queen of Katwe is an inspiring and very moral tale. It is a crowd-pleaser to be certain. You and your family will love it and I highly recommend it.