Saturday, December 22, 2007
What's so Great?
I haven't seen The Great Debaters. But I have seen The Great Debaters. We've all seen The Great Debaters. Earlier this year, it was called Freedom Writers. Last year, it was called Akeelah and the Bee. In 1967, it was called To Sir With Love; in 1987, Stand and Deliver; in 1995, Dangerous Minds. Debaters star and director Denzel Washington was featured in the 2001 model, Remember the Titans; in 2002, he directed and co-starred in the 2002 version, Antwone Fisher.
Knocking these inspirational teacher stories, especially around Christmas, is like stealing wheelchairs from a nursing home. (It's why one always opens at this time of the year, to disarm usually Scrooge-like reviewers who would otherwise twitch at the prospect of another two-hour plus Xerox to consider.) But the genre is so predictable, and there are so many of these films per annum it's hard to see how audiences can respond with any sort of spontaneous, deeply felt uplift. I guess I'd rather have another one under the tree than, say, a National Treasure sequel, but given the glut they seem so unnecessary. I already know how it's going with me: It's at the bottom of my too-see list, which means it will likely drop into my Netflix queue (buried under 400 other titles), then onto a look-see when it turns up on cable next fall. Only significant awards action is going to get my butt onto a seat. "Here endeth the lesson," to quote an "instructor" film I can get behind, The Untouchables.