Craig Robinson, if given the chance, could carry the dramatic weight of a feature film. Here he delivers one lonely, well-written monologue five minutes before the movie ends. In Chad Hartigan’s Morris from America, Robinson is Curtis Gentry, a widower and soccer coach raising his 13-year-old son Morris in Germany. He and his son appear to be the sole people of color in all of Heidelberg, sharing a deep sense of cultural isolation that only music counteracts. Morris, in an effort to open up, discovers that teenagers in Germany are just as mean, fickle, and maladjusted as they are in America. The hip-hop soundtrack, Morris’ own X-rated rap lyrics, and a pillow used for frottage while Miguel sings “Pussy Is Mine” collectively prevent the film from qualifying as an after-school special. But a tepid script and a timid camera render scenes of acting out and a first crush emotionally inert. The complex mess of adolescence, and the psychological effects of racism, might have been richly felt if father and son had shared an equal amount of screen time. In his few scenes, Robinson subtly communicates, with his eyes and vocal inflections, Curtis’ sense of grief. If Hartigan had concentrated on his ease and openness, he might have earned both characters the authentic happy ending they deserved.
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