The formulaic aspects of the film donít end there either. Take for example a speech that the respected and tough professor (played by Washington) forces the students to reiterate during their training. Queue the end of the film, and suddenly the trio is in need of inspiration to keep them together and working as a team. What do they do? Recite the speech. Stuff like this is littered through the movie, making it hard to focus on what was currently happening in the storyline, instead compelling the viewer to focus on what was going to happen next (at one point I started keeping score to see if I could predict how every subplot would play out). The example I listed is a minor one, but there are several dozen others apparent at any given time during the film that it can quickly become overbearing for anybody paying enough attention to notice.
For those who arenít as bothered by such trite and obvious storytelling (which admittedly will only seem trite to those that watch films as often as both I and a large majority of the JoBlo.com schmoes do, since the filmmaking itself is pretty much fantastic), THE GREAT DEBATERS will assuredly find a way into your hearts, as it offers everything youíd expect and hope for from an Oprah movie. Depending on who you are, that could either be a good or bad thing, but with commanding performances that can only be delivered by the likes of Denzel Washington and Forrest Whitaker, even the less Oprah-inclined are likely to find something to appreciate here. And, with the minor exception of the youngest male lead (who has almost no personality and never appears to rise to debating greatness like heís intended to), the younger cast is very strong as well. You may not find any surprises in THE GREAT DEBATERS, but itís a well-meaning and easily accessible film that should leave many moviegoers riveted. I just wasnít one of them.
The Great Debaters: An Historical Perspective (23:09): A look at the true story behind the film, with a lot in the way of actor/filmmaker interview contributions.
Deleted Scenes (4:52): There are three, none of which add much value to the film.
Also included are Music Videos ("That's What My Baby Likes" and "My Soul Is a Witness") and Previews.
The Great Debaters: A Heritage of Music (11:58): Insight into the use of music in the film.
Scoring The Great Debaters with James Newton Howard and Peter Golub (10:45): Further insight into the music of the film, this time from a technical standpoint.
Learning the Art: Our Young Actors Go to Debate Camp (21:55): Exactly what the title describes. The young actors are given extensive training at debate camp.
A New Generation of Actors (9:44): Looks at the three young protagonists.
Forest Whitaker on Becoming James Farmer Sr. (3:58): Whitaker is great and all, but this is a needless piece.
The 1930's Wardrobe of Sharen Davis (5:28): Explores the clothing.
The Production Design of David J. Bomba (8:56): Self explanatory.
Also included are two pieces of text from The Poetry of Melvin B. Tolson.