The Great Debaters - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Great Debaters Reviews

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Donald Munro
Fresno Bee
December 26, 2007
It's yet one more of those average biographically based films that comes across as glossy, feel-good moviemaking rather than capturing the texture and fabric of a slice of history.
Read More | Original Score: C
Chris Hewitt (St. Paul)
St. Paul Pioneer Press
December 26, 2007
At the end of the film, we learn that many world-changing ideas originated in the Washington character's classrooms, so there are obviously great stories to tell. If only somebody could figure out how to tell them.
Read More | Original Score: 2/4
Nick Schager
Slant Magazine
December 17, 2007
Without unpredictability or the possibility of an unhappy ending, how can a film truly inspire?
Full Review | Original Score: 2/4
Victoria Alexander
Movie Reviews in Croatian
December 11, 2007
I had no idea that college debating was so boring. You will agree with me.
Full Review
Top Critic
Nick Pinkerton
Village Voice
December 18, 2007
The film avoids potentially interesting frictions by always letting the team debate (and win) on the 'correct' side of every issue -- that which aligns with generally accepted modern liberal sympathies.
Rob Humanick
Projection Booth
January 31, 2008
As is typical of such fare, the primary goals are commendable for their well-intentioned earnestness, but zero points for such gluttonous condescension.
Full Review | Original Score: C
Brian Tallerico
The Deadbolt
December 26, 2007
The Great Debaters plays it way too safe, when life for the real people who inspired it was anything but.
Jeffrey Westhoff
Northwest Herald (Crystal Lake, IL)
February 15, 2008
Although we instinctively should be rooting for these characters, Eisele bends the rules of academic debate to make sure the outcome is never in doubt.
Full Review| Original Score: 2.5/4
Rich Cline
Shadows on the Wall
December 13, 2007
Washington punches every emotional and thematic point in Eisele's script, which undermines the raw power of the story.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/5
Top Critic
Gene Seymour
December 20, 2007
Now that it's possible to get stories about thoughtful African-Americans on the big screen, is it too much to ask that the stories be more thoughtful as well?
Read More | Original Score: 2.5/4
Top Critic
Lou Lumenick
New York Post
December 26, 2007
There's an air of extreme predictability and inevitability in the script.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
Top Critic
Geoff Pevere
Toronto Star
December 26, 2007
It's ultimately less a movie than a high-gloss civics lesson.
Full Review | Original Score: 1.5/4
Sean O'Connell
December 24, 2007
The phrase "inspired by" may buy a filmmaker creative leeway, but it's at the cost of credibility with an audience.
| Original Score: 2.5/5
Dustin Putman
December 24, 2007
When The Great Debaters ends, expect to be uplifted despite the inherent schmaltz. Think about the film for any length of time afterwards, and the wheels of its storytelling undeniably begin to deflate.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/4
Top Critic
Amy Nicholson
I.E. Weekly
January 29, 2008
Despite its transparent manipulations, the film is more decent than it deserves to be, particularly when the kids step up to the podium and get passionate
Full Review | Original Score: C
Top Critic
Joshua Rothkopf
Time Out
November 17, 2011
Read More | Original Score: 2/5
Top Critic
Keith Phipps
AV Club
December 26, 2007
For a movie about a debate team -- one with the word 'debaters' in the title, no less -- Denzel Washington's second effort as a director doesn't have that much interest in what a debate looks and sounds like.
Read More | Original Score: C+
Mark Dujsik
Mark Reviews Movies
December 27, 2007
A movie about ideas that's a bit too timid to actually be about them.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
Top Critic
Bilge Ebiri
New York Magazine/Vulture
December 17, 2007
In the stacked-deck world of Robert Eisele's script, this team has an uncanny ability to grab the hindsight-friendly side of every issue.
Marjorie Baumgarten
Austin Chronicle
December 21, 2007
As the director, [Denzel] Washington brings no special stylistic flourish to the film, instead placing himself at the straightforward service of the Oprah Winfrey-produced story.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
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