a critiQal film review Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993)

  • DVD

Plot: After watching a chess game in the park, 7-year-old Josh Waitzkin (Pomeranc) quickly becomes enamored with the game. When his father (Mantegna) discovers his son's aptitude for the game, he hires a renowned chess coach (Kingsley), while Josh quickly befriends Vinnie (Fishburne), a brash speed chess player. But, when Josh starts winning tournaments, will the pressure to succeed be too much?

Reviewed
558 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 47s)

I’d heard about the drama Searching for Bobby Fischer before, but had never really had any interest in it, thinking it was just another in a long line of sappy dramas. However, while I was perusing movies available to watch instantly on NetFlix®, I decided to give it a shot, as I was kind of sick of the generic action flicks that seem to make up the majority of the NetFlix® films.

So, would I discover Searching for Bobby Fischer wasn’t as sappy as I thought, or should have I just stuck to the generic action flicks?

In his first starring role, Max Pomeranc, as young Josh Waitzkin, does a solid job playing a young boy who becomes enamored with chess. It’s not as rough a role as the back-talking young Mark Sway of The Client (1994) or the autistic Simon Lynch of Mercury Rising (1998) or even the “I see dead people” Cole Sear of The Sixth Sense (1999) – after all, young Josh just needs to feign an interest in chess – but he manages it with the same solid ability that those three youngsters did. The viewer believes in him right from the start, and will follow him on his journey, wherever it may lead.

That’s partially due to a solid cast around him, that help to get the ball rolling in the beginning. With Joe Mantegna as his caring father, willing to go to the ends of the Earth for his son; Joan Allen, as Josh’s mother, willing to indulge him in his passion, only as long as it makes him happy; Laurence Fishburne, as an ex-drug addict turned speed chess fanatic who will become one of young Josh’s biggest fans and Ben Kingsley as a gun-shy chess teacher fearful of losing again, the cast around young Max Pomeranc are the first to catch the viewer’s attention and draw them into the storyline, where they are then caught up in Max’s performance.

Based on a true story, Searching for Bobby Fischer is all about one young chess prodigy’s trip from playing with toys to becoming one of the best chess players of his age. Along the way, his struggle to stay normal amongst the ever-increasing stress of winning is entangling, wrapping the viewers up and carrying them along willingly.

Is it better to take a child prodigy and keep them totally focused on the one thing they do really well, or should they be allowed to run and play like a normal kid? And is that wasting their amazing talent? These are the questions the film asks, and then leads viewers towards the answers that have already been decided by the filmmakers.

Still, there is a surprising amount of tension along the way, and with the solid performances by the entire cast, it won’t really matter if the viewer agrees with those answers or not. It’s the journey along the way that’s the reason the viewers will stick around, making Searching for Bobby Fischer a surprisingly grossing young boy’s chess exploits – and nowhere near as sappy as most dramas tend to be these days.

Sure, iSearching for Bobby Fischer has it’s moments where it’s sugar quotient runs a bit high, but thanks to the solid cast, that won’t matter as much as the viewer’s willingness to follow young Josh’s interesting journey from normal kid to chess grandmaster.

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