Just in time for holiday viewing George Clooney brings us a good old fashioned crowd-pleaser! The Boys in the Boat tells the true story of the underdog rowing team at the University of Washington who won the gold medal for rowing at the Berlin Olympics in 1936. It’s a total feel good flick!

The film centers on Joe Rantz (Callum Turner, Emma., Fantastic Beasts). It’s the height of the depression and he’s living alone in a rusted out car, barely hanging on, yet still attending college. But when the bursar tells him that he has to pay the rest of his tuition or he can’t continue, he scrambles to find a way to make some cash. Luckily for him, the school is recruiting for their rowing team and it not only pays the athletes, but they get a roof over their heads, too. And so he and a throng of other young men try out, and of course, he makes it.

It’s the JV team, but with some great coaching and the right coxswain (that guy at the front of the boat who yells at them to row and a whole lot more) they become a force to be reckoned with, beating the varsity squad and then winning the national regatta to secure their Olympic berth. Joel Edgerton (Thirteen Lives, Loving) plays the tough but caring coach, and Luke Slattery, the brilliant coxswain with some great strategies up his sleeve.

There is a love interest, too. Joyce (Hadley Robinson, Moxie) is a fellow student who knew Joe when they were younger. They bump into one another in a college class and romance ensues. It’s a side story that doesn’t go far, but adds a sweetness to the film. Another character who stands out is George (Peter Guinness), an older man who builds and tends to the boats the boys will use to win, and who becomes Joe’s friend and confidant.

This is one of those films where you know the outcome, but watching the steps it takes to get there is still a whole lot of edge-of-your-seat fun. It’s very well shot and at just over two hours in length (thanks, George!), the story moves at a good pace. There are plot points that could have been turned into more schmaltzy moments that are treated with the emotion they deserve. And even though Joe is the center, all the other young men on the squad get their due as they become a dream team. All in all, I recommend this inspiring film for the whole family.

[Mainstream Chick’s take: I agree with Arty Chick on this one. The Boys in the Boat is a solid, if formulaic, underdog sports film that showcases a sport (rowing) and an era (The Depression, Nazi Germany) rarely (if ever) depicted together. It’s a great choice for a family film– and anyone into rowing– though I’m not sure it’s as Awards-season worthy as I might have anticipated, or hoped for (given the Chicks’ unabashed adoration of Clooney, who directs the film but is not in it).  The Boys in the Boat is good, but missing that elusive ‘X’ factor that can elevate a sports drama to greatness. It’s based on a non-fiction best-seller that focuses on Joe Rantz.  Personally, I would have liked to know more about the other blokes in the boat with Joe. Moreover, I expected, yet did not get, one of those montages featuring who was who, and what happened to them in the years that followed. Guess I’ll have to look it up, or find a documentary.  All in all, a sweet, inspiring, and motivational feel-good flick for sure. –hb]


In theaters Christmas Day.  

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