Underdog Story The Boys in the Boat Wont Be Winning Over Any Audiences

(l-r.) Sam Strike stars as Roger Morris, Thomas Elms as Chuck Day, Joel Phillimore as Gordy Adam, Tom Varey as Johnny White, Wil Coban as Jim McMillin, Bruce Herbelin-Earle as Shorty Hunt, Callum Turner as Joe Rantz, Jack Mulhern as Don Hume and Luke Slattery as Bobby Moch in director George Clooney’s THE BOYS IN THE BOAT An Amazon MGM Studios film Photo credit: Laurie Sparham © 2023 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Underdog stories seem to be what is driving all of the sports movies lately. It’s that hope that the athletes who come from behind make it to the top and the audience can find inspiration in them. Plucked out of almost ninety-year-old history is The Boys in the Boat, the story of the 1936 United States rowing team that came from humble origins to compete in the Olympics.

From the onset, this seems like an odd choice of team to focus on. Yes, at the team, the team made up of mostly poor scholarship boys who made up the Junior Varsity team making it to the Olympics in Berlin was an amazing feat. Most people only hear about the success of Jesse Owens in that period (who does make an almost insultingly brief appearance in the film). But every Olympics cycle has the stars that we talk about for years and the ones who did great, but just make it to the newspapers and into history. Does that mean their story is not valid or do we need a movie about every single one of them? If The Boys in the Boat is an example of what we’d get the answer is a resounding No.

Callum Turner stars as Joe Rantz and Hadley Robinson as Joyce Simdars in director George Clooney’s THE BOYS IN THE BOAT An Amazon MGM Studios film Photo credit: Laurie Sparham © 2023 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.

So what’s the problem with The Boys in the Boat? There are several. The pacing is a major one. Let’s be clear, Rowing is an actual sport but one that isn’t as popular today as it may have been in the 1930’s. And the movie seems to be stuck in that kind of feel – an outdated and slow pace that doesn’t line up with what modern audiences are used to or looking for. Does that mean modernizing the story’s pacing? Not necessarily – but maybe it isn’t the best story to bring to the screen – or maybe, it’s just the repeated shots of oars slapping water and moving in their holders that just don’t help make it interesting. Or even, maybe, the kiss at the train station that lingers way too long while a train is moving, as a response of a declaration of love (that still went unanswered). It all just feels dated, and wrong and takes way too long to get to any point.

Then there’s the lack of diversity in the film. Yes, it’s set in the 1930s in Washington. But you can’t tell me that there weren’t more than a couple of people of color in the whole state at the time. As shots pan crowds, you can find a minority person tossed in so the movie can get away with not being as white as snow. Even the main characters are stereotypical white as they can get, that they almost fit into the caricaturized Hunger Games world. Was this so they stand out from the rest of the crowd? Or was this just so they fit the 1930s ideal of beauty at the time? Again, outdated and out of place.

But the biggest issue the movie has is completing a storyline. Some characters do things to move the plot forward, or could throw things into disarray – and that issue is dropped within five minutes. A team member gets sick, which could ruin their chances at competing – throw in the alternate? No, let’s wait a few minutes in the movie he will compete. It seems like the whole movie is a compilation of disjointed parts that were cobbled together at the end.

(l-r.) Chris Diamantopoulos stars as Royal Brougham, James Wolk as Coach Bolles, and Joel Edgerton as Al Ulbrickson in director George Clooney’s THE BOYS IN THE BOAT An Amazon MGM Studios film Photo credit: Laurie Sparham © 2023 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Yes, The Boys in the Boat is supposed to be a rags to riches/underdog story – but it really falls flat. Not only do we not see what happens after the Olympics, or if life changes for the boys who participated. But we’re also left with several unfulfilled stories along the way. The movie starts and ends with a very 90s movie-feeling scene with an old man watching boaters go by, but it doesn’t tell you much about who he is or what. Sure, we can all assume he’s the main character in the movie, but other than being called “grandpa” instead of a name, we don’t know which of the boys he was. He very well could be one of the team members that we briefly introduced to in the training scenes and were set dressing the rest of the movie.

If you love historical sports movies that feel like they were shot over thirty years ago, and spend a lot of the time focusing on the mechanics of how an oar hits the water over and over in the scene – this just might be the movie for you.

The Boys in the Boat will be in theaters everywhere on Christmas Day.

Overall Rating

Two Stars Review

About The Boys in the Boat

The Boys in the Boat

During the height of the Great Depression, members of the rowing team at the University of Washington get thrust into the spotlight as they compete for gold at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.



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