By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
I have always been a fan of inspirational teacher/student movies. Over the years, Hollywood has cranked out plenty of them from “Dangerous Minds,” “Stand and Deliver,” and “The Great Debaters,” to “Dead Poets Society” “Lean on Me” and my all-time favorite, “To Sir With Love.”
Those that are based on true stories and have an exceptional cast usually win me over too. So, no surprise that the excellent new movie “Critical Thinking”
is also now one of my favorites.
“Critical Thinking” marks the directorial debut of the exceptionally talented John Leguizamo (TV’s “When They See Us” and TV’s “The Power”) who also stars in this indie drama as an inner-city Miami School teacher named Mario Martinez.
He uses some clever and unorthodox methods to teach and coach the Black and Latinx Jackson High School chess team to the U.S. National Chess Championship in 1998.
While “Critical Thinking” does strike familiar beats, the movie, from screenwriter Dito Montiel (“Man Down”), also manages to stand apart thanks largely to its young, talented cast.
The students on the chess team are good kids, but also a product of their hard-knock environments. Ito (another nice performance from Jorge Lendeborg Jr, “Spider-Man: Far From Home”) is trying to do the right thing by going to school and working at night at an auto shop, but those double shifts often makes him late to class and he gets an earful from Mr. Martinez.
When Ito loses his job, he gets caught up with the wrong crowd and is unable to hang out with his school buddies and pays a price for his bad decisions.
“Critical Thinking” really centers on Sedrick Roundtree (a terrific Corwin C. Tuggles, TV’s “The Last O.G.”). He’s a smart kid who wants to impress his despondent and single parent father (Michael Kenneth Williams, TV’s “Lovecraft Country”).
There’s a reason for his dad’s grief.
The student’s struggles at home and at school, along with their ability to overcome such enormous odds—their trip to the chess finals tournament in Beverly Hills, California is priceless—make “Critical Thinking” a refreshing, poignant and thoroughly rewarding little drama.
“Critical Thinking” would have landed in theaters if it weren’t for COVID-19. It’s currently available on VOD.
Be sure to catch my N2Entertainment.net movie talk segment on the Kitty O'Neal Show Fridays now at 6:20 p.m. on radio station KFBK 1530 AM and 93.1 FM.
Look At This Trailer For "CRITICAL THINKING"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), The Black Film Critics Circle (BFCC), The Alliance Of Women Film Journalists (AWFJ) and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.