Critic Reviews



Based on 32 critic reviews provided by
Ultimately an uplifting movie because it is about triumph.
Wouldn't it have been more fascinating if, just once, they had to argue, as all debate teams must, against their own beliefs? That would have really tested these amazing kids' mettle--and the movie's too.
Tailor-made for maximum inspirational, historical and educational impact, The Great Debaters shines a bright spotlight on a remarkable example of black achievement long forgotten in the sorry history of the Jim Crow South.
The Hollywood Reporter
An earnest drama about the search for self-esteem and sense of responsibility among young black people that successfully relies on its fine actors.
Los Angeles Times
Because it is so old-school Hollywood, with a weakness for standard moments and pat situations, The Great Debaters initially comes off as easily dismissible. Largely saving it from that fate is the presence and ability of Denzel Washington, who costars with Forest Whitaker and directs from Robert Eisele's script.
While The Great Debaters' intentions don't lead it to movie hell, this picture is far more diffuse, commonplace, and predictable than the surprisingly convincing "Fisher."
An enjoyable, rousing film, despite its formulaic quality.
Village Voice
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. The kids follow their party line all the way to the big game, a ridiculous, fallacy-riddled face-off against Harvard.
The film is hobbled by the narrative predictability that inevitably governs this type of drama.
Miami Herald
The Great Debaters keeps things on the surface and pushes the obvious buttons, hoping you won't notice its distinct lack of depth.

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