The Great Debaters - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Great Debaters Reviews

Top Critic
Joshua Rothkopf
Time Out
November 17, 2011
| Original Score: 2/5
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
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Joe Morgenstern
Wall Street Journal
January 3, 2008
As for Mr. Parker and Ms. Smollett, there's no debating what awaits them -- stardom, very soon.
Top Critic
Peter Rainer
Christian Science Monitor
January 3, 2008
The Great Debaters succeeds in bringing a lump to the throat without, as is de rigueur these days, insulting our intelligence.
Full Review | Original Score: B
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Joe Williams
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
December 28, 2007
The Great Debaters is well-acted, deeply felt and delivers a positive message about the importance of education.
Top Critic
Richard Schickel
TIME Magazine
December 28, 2007
The film may be manipulative in its construction, and cliché-ridden in some of the incidents it recounts, but it has a good, large heart.
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Owen Gleiberman
Entertainment Weekly
December 28, 2007
...The Great Debaters soars with words and feeling.
Full Review | Original Score: B
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Richard Roeper
Ebert & Roeper
December 26, 2007
It's important, it's deeply inspiring, it's something from our not-so-distant past we must not forget, and it should be must-see viewing for high school and college students of all backgrounds.
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Stephen Hunter
Washington Post
December 26, 2007
A rouser, a stunner, almost a jubilee of emotion and suspense by the old standards of Hollywood melodrama, circa the time the actual events themselves took place.
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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
Top Critic
Mark Rahner
Seattle Times
December 26, 2007
Resolved: No more movies can have inspiring, self-sacrificing teachers standing on desks.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/4
Top Critic
Walter V. Addiego
San Francisco Chronicle
December 26, 2007
The goal here is to educate and to inspire, and that's what The Great Debaters does.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Roger Moore
Orlando Sentinel
December 26, 2007
[It's] is history at its most entertaining, and a vivid reminder that we're all living in a country built and then rebuilt by people who turned their passion into logical, rational arguments that moved us, step by step, down the road to justice.
| Original Score: 4/5
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.
| Original Score: C+
Top Critic
Stephen Holden
New York Times
December 26, 2007
There are enough things to admire about The Great Debaters, the heavily fictionalized true story of The Little Debate Team That Could, that your impulse is to forgive the movie its shortcomings.
| Original Score: 3.5/5
Top Critic
Jack Mathews
New York Daily News
December 26, 2007
It's an inspirational film that wears its heart on its sleeve. But it's got a good, strong heart and, despite some awkward moments in the later going, it's an elegantly directed second effort from Washington.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Colin Covert
Minneapolis Star Tribune
December 26, 2007
Washington's charisma is on full display, and he makes Tompkins a figure of remarkable courage.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Connie Ogle
Miami Herald
December 26, 2007
The Great Debaters keeps things on the surface and pushes the obvious buttons, hoping you won't notice its distinct lack of depth.
| Original Score: 2.5/4
Top Critic
Tom Long
Detroit News
December 26, 2007
Even if it does precisely what you expect it's going to do, you still love it for doing it so well and telling a tale that bears repeating.
Top Critic
John Monaghan
Detroit Free Press
December 26, 2007
The Great Debaters has value, to be sure, especially for teenage viewers. But serious moviegoers, especially those attracted by the movie's aggressive Oscar campaign, will likely find the package gorgeously wrapped but intellectually empty.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/4
Top Critic
Chris Vognar
Dallas Morning News
December 26, 2007
With Antwone Fisher and now The Great Debaters, Mr. Washington has made a pair of movies that dodge enough clichés to indulge in a few.
| Original Score: B+
Top Critic
Jonathan Rosenbaum
Chicago Reader
December 26, 2007
Conceived like a sports movie, this delivers passion, nuance, and historical insight along with unnecessary hokum.
Top Critic
Christy Lemire
Associated Press
December 26, 2007
As in Antwone Fisher, which helped make a star of Derek Luke, Washington draws effortless performances from his young actors, which go a long way in making The Great Debaters more enjoyable than you might expect.
Top Critic
Wesley Morris
Boston Globe
December 26, 2007
For a film about the power of speech, it's the quiet moments of rapture that say everything.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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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
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Lisa Kennedy
Denver Post
December 26, 2007
The actor-director brings the energy and rhythms of a sports flick to a little-known bit of American history in his deeply enjoyable film The Great Debaters.
| Original Score: 3.5/4
Top Critic
Bruce Newman
San Jose Mercury News
December 26, 2007
Even when it's just one person standing at a lectern, the frame is never static, the tension never slack.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
Top Critic
Bill Goodykoontz
Arizona Republic
December 26, 2007
The quality of the performances is uniformly good.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/5
Top Critic
Claudia Puig
USA Today
December 26, 2007
An enjoyable, rousing film, despite its formulaic quality.
| Original Score: 2.5/4
Top Critic
Roger Ebert
Chicago Sun-Times
December 26, 2007
This is one of the year's best films.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
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Carrie Rickey
Philadelphia Inquirer
December 26, 2007
Washington succeeds in making debating as enthralling as contact sports.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
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Liam Lacey
Globe and Mail
December 26, 2007
All of this unfolds with such predictability, the title might as well be The Great Foregone Conclusion.
| Original Score: 2/4
Top Critic
Kenneth Turan
Los Angeles Times
December 26, 2007
Working hard on both sides of the camera, Washington has grafted his intensity onto this production, giving it a kind of backbone it would not otherwise have.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/5
Top Critic
James Berardinelli
ReelViews
December 25, 2007
This is one of the better movies in recent years to address issues of racial inequality and the way in which individuals overcome them.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
Top Critic
Andrew O'Hehir
Salon.com
December 25, 2007
Washington's direction is never less than capable, and cinematographer Philippe Rousselot's images flow gracefully from scene to scene.
Top Critic
Michael Phillips
Chicago Tribune
December 24, 2007
Director Denzel Washington's The Great Debaters is pure Hollywood, not without its share of storytelling cliches and golden-toned inspirational teaching moments, but you know what? The results really are inspirational.
| Original Score: 3/4
Top Critic
Gene Seymour
Newsday
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?
| Original Score: 2.5/4
Top Critic
Kirk Honeycutt
Hollywood Reporter
December 20, 2007
Terrific acting lights up this period drama directed by Denzel Washington.
Top Critic
Andrew Sarris
New York Observer
December 19, 2007
The Great Debaters is one of the happiest surprises of the season; it's marvelously edifying entertainment you should not miss.
Top Critic
Todd McCarthy
Variety
December 19, 2007
Pic's emotional appeal is significant.
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.
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.
Top Critic
David Ansen
Newsweek
December 10, 2007
Stirring, likable and unashamedly formulaic.