A compelling family drama with the game of chess at its center, Disney’s QUEEN OF KATWE is this year’s “sports film” under their ESPN Films banner, eschewing physical sports for that of a psychological variety. Based on the true story of Ugandan chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi (played here by newcomer Madina Nalwanga) and her quest to become a Grandmaster with goals to rise above her poverty-level upbringings in the slums of Katwe, the strength of director Mira Nair’s film lies firmly in the cast of mostly unknown young actors that effortlessly inhabit the true-life characters that lived the story not-so-long-ago. The youngsters are backed by Academy Award-Winner Lupita Nyong’o (STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, 12 YEARS A SLAVE) and Emmy nominee David Oyelowo (STAR WARS REBELS, SELMA) as grownups with adversarial views of what might be best for the children, particularly Phiona in general.
While the pacing might feel a bit long-winded at times, QUEEN OF KATWE does a fine job of reminding audiences that we should never underestimate the power of children and the hidden talents that each could hold, just waiting to be unlocked at unexpected times.
In many ways, QUEEN OF KATWE is the movie we need right now – an antidote to negativity.
Things to Know:
- Reviewed from an early press screening held June 2016 in Burbank, California.
- Released in theaters: September 23, 2016 (Limited), September 30, 2016 (in theaters everywhere).
- Rated PG for thematic elements, an accident scene and some suggestive material.
- Buy Tickets: Fandango
Bonus: Check out the music video for Young Cardamom & HAB’s “#1 Spice”