It’s been more than two years since Lupita Nyong’o won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her feature film debut, “12 Years a Slave” (2013), but the new Disney film “Queen of Katwe” is her first appearance on-screen since then. Her return was worth the wait judging from the reviews. The film has scored 73 on MetaCritic and 88% freshness on Rotten Tomatoes.
The film, directed by Mira Nair, tells the true story of Phiona Mutesi (played by Madina Nalwanga), a girl from Uganda who trains to become a chess champion. Nyong’o plays her mother, Nakku Harriet, and “Selma” star David Oyelowo plays Robert Katende, who runs a chess program and encourages Phiona’s talent.
But even though we haven’t seen Nyong’o’s face on the big screen since “12 Years a Slave” (apart from a supporting role in the thriller “Non-Stop,” which was released in theaters right before she won her Oscar), she has certainly been busy. She played a performance-capture role in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and lent her voice to “The Jungle Book,” and she received a Tony nomination in 2016 for her leading role in the Broadway play “Eclipsed.”
What do you think of “Queen of Katwe”? Check out some of the reviews below, and click here to discuss all of this weekend’s new film releases.
A.O. Scott (New York Times): “No matter how universally charming or winning a movie or a performance might seem to be, there is always a chance that somebody, somewhere, will be able to resist it. For all I know that may be the case with ‘Queen of Katwe,’ but if there is anyone out there capable of remaining unmoved by this true-life triumph-of-the-underdog sports story, I don’t think I want to meet that person.”
Claudia Puig (The Wrap): “Films that inspire and warm our hearts are often dismissed as manipulative, treacly or sentimental. Even the word ‘inspirational’ has gotten a bad rap. But some stories are simply that: inspiring and heartwarming. ‘Queen of Katwe,’ which chronicles the true story of a young female Ugandan chess champion, is just such a tale.”
Moira Macdonald (Seattle Times): “‘Queen of Katwe,’ for all its familiarity, is a family film in the best sense of the phrase. It’s suitable for all ages (though its two-hour running time may be a challenge for young squirmers), and it celebrates the bonds of family: both the one we are born into, and the one that we acquire.”
Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune): “Nair, based in New York, has also lived in Kampala for decades. She knows the area, and she and her superb cinematographer Sean Bobbitt (“12 Years a Slave”) make the Katwe streets and bustle come alive. The images are vibrant and flowing, braking just this side of prettiness at the expense of honesty.”