Review by Adam Donato
George Clooney has had a remarkable career in filmmaking. He’s won Oscars for both his work as an actor and as a producer. The aspect of filmmaking he has tried and failed at has been directing. That might be a little harsh as his movies are more mid than terrible. His latest effort is The Boys in the Boat, a true story about a team of junior varsity rowers who make a miracle Olympic run. Starring Joel Edgerton and Callum Turner, The Boys in the Boat looks to duplicate its story’s underdog spirit at the box office. Does George Clooney have a surprise winner on his hands?
Sports movies are pretty formulaic, and when they’re true stories, they aren’t full of surprises. The Boys in the Boat is about as standard as it gets when it comes to sports movies. The leads are so ordinary and uninteresting. As the buttoned-up coach, Edgerton plays the role well but isn’t given much to do. Turner is the lead character and is less than charismatic. He’s poor, likes his girlfriend, and has daddy issues. His story did not need to be front and center. It’s not outwardly bad — it’s just remarkably unspecial and bland. Clooney saps this story up for the old folks looking for an uplifting underdog true story. The guy who played Hitler in the movie had a better performance. If one of the main characters was more religious, it’s funny how Dennis Quaid would play the coach. You’ve seen this story before.
The only thing the movie has going for it is that rowing crew is not an oversaturated type of sports movie. It’s one of the most beautiful sports in terms of terrain. There is beauty in how in sync the towers are as they glide through the water. There are some creative shots of the boys rowing in the boat that are pretty cool. It’s a niche sport as it’s very upscale, requiring commitment to physical fitness and high cost. The main character joins the team because it pays well, which is just a testament to the physical toll the position takes on someone at the highest level. Rowing crew is a beautiful sport that makes The Boys in the Boat stand out in a crowded genre.
To call The Boys in the Boat Oscar bait would be unfair. There’s no way Clooney is seriously expecting even to get nominated for any kind of Oscar for this. Pumping back on the hate for Clooney, though, there are much worse things than being mid. The Boys in the Boat is a competent sports film that showcases a gorgeous and underrepresented sport. The old guy made a cameo in The Flash movie; he can make his rowing movie in peace. Clooney better love this movie, as audiences will only have a mildly enjoyable time at the theater for this one.
The Boys in the Boat hits theaters on December 25.