Friday, August 26, 2016

[Review] Morris from America

"It's kinda slow... It's got no hook," a teen says to his dad after being introduced to "Come Clean" by Jeru the Damaja. His dad responds "Get out of here with that no hook shit... This is music right here," and then only half-jokingly sends him to his room. The classic generation gap argument about rap music endearingly sets the tone for this coming-of-age dramedy that you have to check out.

Morris (Markees Christmas) is a 13-year-old African-American kid adjusting to his new and confusing life in Heidelberg, Germany after his dad Curtis (Craig Robinson) relocated for work. We follow Morris' growing pains and his first-time "experiments", all while he crushes on a super-blonde German girl named Katrin (Lina Keller), who is a couple school grades ahead of him.

Fittingly, the film boasts a smooth rap soundtrack that practically bumps whenever someone isn't talking, almost creating a headphone Pause & Play effect. There's also a whimsy quality to the aesthetic--filled with whip pans, zoom-ins & zoom-outs, and daydream sequences. During a scene when Morris gets lost in his music at an art museum, the sculptures trippingly nod their heads to the beat.

And while we're mostly used to seeing Craig Robinson in straight-up comedic roles, here he's warm, understated, and even a bit melancholy, as his character reflects on his recently passed-away wife. He's also trying to find a balance between being a cool dad and a disciplinary mentor as Morris gets involved in some rebellious shenanigans. But don't get it twisted, the comedy chops are still present and ready to unleash at any minute, and the funny script makes sure it happens.

Morris from America is a little light on conflict and story, but it's a worthwhile watch. Easy listening. The film serves as an affectionate ode to hip-hop, a sentimental father/son story, and a sweet romp of young love and blending unique perspectives. Oh, and there's plenty of Jay Z references. You gotta have the Jay Z references!

( 7.5/10 )

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