It should surprise no one how many movies are made of underdogs in sports, so it is a shame when a movie like Queen of Katwe comes out. It is a movie that is bound to be overlooked, while it is fresh, encouraging entertainment for the whole family.
It tells the true story of missionary Robert Katende (David Oyelowo), who is a coach to some of the kids of Katwe, Uganda in soccer (an injury has sidelined him from play). Other kids are unable to play, so he shows them another game, Chess.
One of the kids is a stand out. Her name is Phiona (newcomer Madina Nalwanga). Along with her brother Brian (Martin Kabanza), they manage to use chess as an escape from their life in the slums with their mother (Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’O). There is also their older sister Night (Taryn Kyaze), who is in and out of the house on the road to a life in the slums.
Basically, it is the same underdog story told in countless other movies, but what makes the film work is, above all, its heart. It really goes all in on the story of a young girl whose only real handicap is where she was born. The performances work (especially Oyelowo and Nyong’O), and the “action” of the games never results in a stalemate of any kind.
Parents, there are some dramatic moments (one character is in a road accident and is taken to the emergency room), but that is it. I don’t recall any swearing (some kissing, but nothing more). This is a feel good family film that deserves more attention.
I would say more, but I want you to discover the film yourself. That, plus I have to revisit my chess app and get practicing again…
Overall: Three and a Half Stars *** 1/2