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The Boys In The Boat Has Screened, And George Clooney’s Sports Drama Is Receiving Tepid Reactions From Critics

Everybody loves a good underdog story — especially when the events being portrayed actually happened — and Daniel James Brown’s 2013 nonfiction novel The Boys in the Boat has been lauded for its inspiring account of the University of Washington junior varsity rowing team’s unlikely rise to the 1936 Olympics. Now that story is being adapted for the big screen , and before it hits theaters on Christmas Day, critics had the opportunity to attend a screening. Let’s see what they have to say about upcoming sports drama.
At one time Kenneth Branagh was attached to an adaptation of the book, but audiences will see a different vision come December 25, as George Clooney serves as the director of The Boys in the Boat. The movie stars Callum Turner as rower Joe Rantz and Joel Edgerton as the university’s coach Al Ulbrickson. Sheri Linden of THR says the movie could have used more of an edge, but just like the titular crew, it gets the job done. The critic writes:
The Boys in the Boat takes a while to spark to life. It’s a handsome period piece that’s often too smooth around the edges, but with its old-fashioned sincerity and unforced insistence on team spirit, it has a certain all-ages appeal — assuming audiences of all ages are going to the movies this holiday season.
Tomris Laffly of The Wrap agrees that The Boys in the Boat is tailor-made for the whole family, as the story shamelessly tugs at the heartstrings en route to its rousing finale. Laffly praises George Clooney and screenwriter Mark L. Smith for providing a clear understanding of a rowing team. Their development of the characters as individuals pays off when the rowers come together as a team, she says, continuing:
The Boys in the Boat is the best kind of easy-to-consume and inoffensive underdog tale, tracing the rousing journey of one penniless young man in his quest to become something more than his financial predicaments have thus far allowed him. And it helps that it’s Clooney that’s steering this ship. In his hands, The Boys in the Boat stays its course as a wholesome and forgivably formulaic movie you won’t ever regret seeing on a Sunday afternoon with the whole family.
Mae Abdulbaki of ScreenRant , however, finds the film lacking in emotion, despite being riveted by the racing scenes. The critic says the overall product would have hit harder if the character arcs delivered the same tension, but instead the result is a passive “snoozefest.” Abdulbaki writes:
The Boys in the Boat takes an intriguing story and somehow makes it uninteresting. The film is beautiful to look at, and Alexandre Desplat’s score is moving, but Clooney’s film doesn’t leave an impression. It’s too slow-going, and the characters lack personality, which made it hard for me to get invested in their stories. There are plenty of sports dramas, but they’re usually engaging, heartfelt, and occasionally even fun. But there’s a self-seriousness and emotional detachment that leaves the biopic struggling to make it to the finish line.
Marshall Shaffer of SlashFilm rates the movie 6 out of 10, echoing other critics in calling George Clooney’s effort “simple studio filmmaking at its least offensive.” The JV rowing team’s ascent to the Berlin Olympics is a thrilling watch — for the team’s brilliance, not the filmmaking, Shaffer says:
So try as it might for that additional political heft, this is ultimately just a standard-issue sports movie. Clooney mostly contains the fallout from that extra ambition faltering because he manages to provide that baseline level of expected inspiration from the genre. The film tastes like the cinematic equivalent of Clooney’s tequila brand Casamigos. That is to say, The Boys in the Boat goes down smoothly, if somewhat unremarkably.
Manuel Betancourt of AV Club similarly grades the movie a C+, saying that George Clooney and Mark L. Smith water down the gripping message portrayed in the bestselling book, writing:
One just wishes the painterly backdrops of Depression-era Seattle, the sun-dappled shots of rowed water, and the anguished looks of those dapper rowing boys (oft-scored by swelling music helpfully nudging us to feel inspired or despondent, depending on the shot) didn’t all feel so wooden and sterile. You cheer on these boys but you’re not left with much once the credits roll and their story becomes but a wistful tale of a time gone by.

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