The Great Debaters

Genre: Drama; Starring: Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker, Jermaine Williams; Director: Denzel Washington; Author: Robert Eisele; Runtime (in minutes): 123; MPAA Rating: PG-13; Distributor: MGM

By the time Oscar winners Washington and Whitaker — as rival influences on an all-black debate team — collide on screen in The Great Debaters, any excitement around their scenes is deflated by the manufactured drama of this true-life historical lesson. Director Washington films the story of Wiley College’s 1935 debate champions like a clichéd sports movie — one that lacks complexity or suspense. EXTRAS Spirited interviews with surviving Wiley debaters; gushing from starstruck producer Oprah Winfrey: ”I hope that in my lifetime I get…to work with Forest as an actor.” C+

Originally posted May 2 2008 — 12:00 AM EDT

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