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Queen of Katwe     review by Bobby Blakey

Disney does a great job of bringing some really good inspiring and motivational true stories to life like only they can. The latest, Queen of Katwe starring Madina Nalwanga, David Oyelowo, and Lupita Nyong’o takes on a story involving chess that could leave you to wonder if there is much to really inspire, but the trailers promised a lot more than you might think. Does this film really inspire the viewer to reach for the stars or will it be check mate before it can ever start?

Queen of Katwe follows the colorful 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. This is one of those films with a story that isn’t overly powerful from the standpoint of big change, but instead on more of a personal journey to this young woman and her family. This isn’t a story you haven’t seen before on some levels, but that it just part of how life is. You have to go into this film with an open mind and allow the film to capture your heart and inspire you in the way that chess inspired her to be more. Often time people just watch these kinds of films thoughtlessly and ignore what it really offered them. There is a simple format here that allows the viewer to somewhat experience the life that this young girl and her family are living and why it is so important for to find something bigger for them in her life. Her journey throughout the film is inspiring and heartbreaking taking full advantage at tugging at your heart strings without trying to force it.

Everyone in the film deliver great performances with young Madina Nalwanga kicking some major but in the lead role of her first film. She brings a subtle strength masked over the pain and emotion that she is struggling with throughout her story. David Oyelowo is always great and that is no different here. Here brings the strong leadership quality with the compassion and caring for these kids that is needed for you to truly believe what he is doing with them. One of the surprise performances comes from the always great Lupita Nyong’o who takes on the role of the mother that is easily one of the strongest of the films. The surprise doesn’t come from her ability, but in the seemingly darkness and hard edged nature of the character. She has good intentions, but doesn’t always seem like she is fully being fair or kind. As the story progresses you begin to better understand her pain and struggle and feel for what she is trying to do and has already done for family. The biggest surprise for me came with the chess games themselves. They managed to deliver the same intensity and great moments that you expect from a sport film, but the more personal touch to each game the players involved made it all the more fun to watch.

In the end this film hits all the right notes to inspire, pull at the heart strings and entertain all at once. The story is crafted in a way that leaves you rooting for the games and just wanting this family to get a break for once. Like with any good true story the film offers up a great ending to catch you up where all the people involved are in away, here in a way that will make you smile from ear to ear.

This release not only includes the film, but also a variety of bonus features including deleted scenes, commentary, music videos, and featurettes that take you further behind the film and true story that inspired it. Make your move and grab your copy of Queen of Katwe available now on Digital HD, Blu-ray and DVD from Disney Home Entertainment.

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