Rating: PG, 124 minutes
In a Nutshell: Walt Disney presents a fascinating, feel-good, underdog story about a smart girl who grows up in extreme poverty in Uganda. It’s fascinating to watch this determined girl learn how to solve problems and conquer her surroundings through the game of Chess. Even better? It’s a true story.
Disney has practically invented the inspiring sports movie genre. While Chess may not be considered a sports movie, this wonderful film is a welcome addition to the collection.
“To find where you belong, you must make your move.”
“Sometimes the place you are used to is not the place where you belong.” – Coach Robert Katende
“Can you do big things from such a small place?” – Phiona
Challenges are not a curse. (Painted on the back of their bus.)
“Focus on what you have.” - Coach
Things I liked:
Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo are both absolutely fantastic. You would think they were native Ugandans with their spot-on accents. Lupita’s biceps are impressive. David’s eyes speak volumes of love.
The music is fun and energizing.
The scene where Gloria had the hiccups while she competed against a super tall kid was adorable.
Little Ethan Nazario Lubega plays a super cute Benjamin. I loved the little gasp he made when he got excited about something.
I wish all children had a loving, kind coach like Robert Katende.
I like the way they snap their fingers.
What a beautiful fisherman scene when Robert is talking to Phiona at the water’s edge. I was fascinated by the images of daily life in Uganda.
It’s cute how they all say “cloth-es.”
I always love it when the audience gets to see pictures of the real people at the end of the movie next to the actors who played them. This movie takes it one delightful step farther by letting you see them filmed together.
Indian Director Mira Nair creates a very nice balance between telling the stories of the coach, mother, and our dear little queen of Chess.
Ah, that cute little Richard. The young Richard was played by Ivan Jacobo, followed by Nicolas Levesque as older Richard.
Keep watching during the rolling credits for a fun music video surprise you’ll love!
Things I didn’t like:
Everyone’s accents are so thick that it’s often hard to understand what people say.
It was sad when Phiona’s sister (Night) said, “I don’t think God cares about us one way or another.” Coach Robert worked with a ministry and SHOWED the poor people God’s love, rather than just preach it.
It was sad that Fiona’s mother had to sneak out of the hospital because she couldn’t pay her son’s bill.
Some of those outfits. Yikes. Ha ha
Like playing a game of Chess, you can see several moves ahead that the film will make, but each step is still extremely enjoyable to watch.
“No, no, no, please, no!” – Minister Aloysius Kyazze (Philip Luswata) “Yes, yes, yes, please, yes!” – Robert
“Ketchup is the greatest thing that has ever been invented.” – Mugabi Brian (Martin Kabanza)
“Use your minds and you will all find safety.” – Robert
“I don’t need your forgiveness. I need you to sell maize to feed your brothers.” – Nakku Harriet
“In Chess, the small one can become the big one. That’s why I like it.” – Gloria Nansubuga (Nikita Waligwa)
“I wish I could just take all the knowledge from here and just put it inside my head.” – Phiona (I feel the EXACT same way about books!) Her coach explains, “With a book, it’s like the teacher lives inside them and you can visit them any time you wish!”
“I may be down, but I am not out.” – Richard
· “I wish we could eat these prizes.” –Nakku (I felt the same way. I won a lot of Speech & Debate tournaments in college and wished that, instead of a useless trophy, I could have received cash or even a platter that I could have served food on!
· “They cannot return to their old lives, because they have tasted yours.” – Nakku Harriet
· “Where is my safe square, Coach?” – Phiona Mutesi
“Losing teaches me to play better. “ = Phiona Mutesi
Did you know?
Director Mira Nair made a documentary about Coach Robert Katende first and then later decided to adapt the story into a feature film.
A famous fashion model in Uganda won an auction during a fundraiser for the film so that she could play an Extra in the movie.
This colorful story was filmed mainly in Uganda and South Africa.
Tips for parents:
This is a great movie for your kids to see, because they have probably never seen poverty like this before. It will expand their horizon to see how people live in other countries, hopefully, making them more grateful for what they have. While living with hardly anything, someone asks, “Hi Phiona! How is your life?” She smiles and happily answers, “It is fine!”
Some talk of prostitution.
Phiona gives our children a great example of an obedient girl who works hard and never gives up.