HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Morris From America
HTS Overall Score:74
Growing up is hard, I don’t care who you are or what nation you’re from. Being a teenager is an awkward phase of adjustment that takes some getting to use to for all parties involved in a child’s rearing. Especially if you’re in another country other than your own. “Morris from America” takes a look at coming of age in a different country when you’re just your average African American kid who just wants to come home. The movie is definitely not a Hollywood picture, or at least not your typical Hollywood picture, but borrows elements from many coming of age films that we have seen in the past. Girls, drama, sexual awakenings, and of course, parental relationships that are strained due to burgeoning adulthood. While it may rely on genre clichés and standard conventions to tell the story, there is a real bond between the father and son as they try and navigate the horribly confusing world of living out of their element amidst a tumultuous time in their lives.
You’re not privy to the fact that Morris (Markees Christmas) and his father Curtis Gentry (Craig Robinson) are living in Germany. In fact it could be any household in America with a father and son bantering back and forth about rap music. It’s not till the film opens up to reveal the picturesque city of Heidelberg Germany that we realize the family is not in the good old U.S. of A. Curtis is a recently widowed man who has moved to Germany with his son Morris in order to teach Soccer there. The new move from America has changed a lot of factor’s in Morris’s life and now he’s trying to grow up in a foreign culture, all the while coming into age as an adult (or at least opening the door to that realm). He’s at a new school and struggling to fit in there. This is compounded by the fact that he’s a black kid in pale lily white Germany and due to the fact that he can barely speak the language as it is.
Curtis is trying to connect with Morris, opening up his life as he tries to bridge the gap between father and son. Curtis is living with the depression of having lost his wife AND having to move back to Germany (ironically the country where he and his wife stayed originally). He’s struggling with the same issues of fitting in and making new friends as Morris is, which gives him the advantage when communicating with his son. Still, Morris is at that age where he wants very little to do with his parents and soon the obligatory girl crush comes in the form of Katrin (Lina Keller). A young German girl who forms a strange bond with the fragile young boy. What starts out as a little crush turns into an eye opening experience for Morris as he has to come to grips with what makes him HIM in a world that wants people to conform to what everyone else is at the moment.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=84066[/img]“Morris from America” is a sweet film that really hits home about some of the struggles of growing up. The veneer of growing up in a foreign country isn’t the real issue at hand, but acts as a catalyst or as a blank drop canvas for the real issues to show up against as a contrast. No matter the location and the circumstances, growing up is a hard thing to do, and Markees Christmas and Craig Robinson do a fantastic job at portraying the pitfalls and issue that one faces coming to adulthood (or dealing with adulthood in Curtis’s sake). It’s Morris’s relationship with the obviously more experience Katrin that really starts to make some changes to Morris. He’s hanging out with her and her older friends, experience new drugs, partying like he is actually included, until things start to reach a tipping point where Morris has to look inside of himself and find his own unique identity.
There’s actually a rather coarse dialog where Curtis confronts Morris on his explicit rap lyrics that he’s been working on. Instead of chewing his son out for making explicit “gangsta” lyrics, Curtis lays into Morris for not writing about his OWN experience. As a 13 year old kid he’s never done the lewd and graphic acts that most hip hop stars go on about, making his imitating those lyrics hypocritical and embarrassing. It may be a bit crude, but it is extremely poignant and realistically true when you think about it. Your own experiences and views define your music, and your whole life. Trying to parrot what other people do and say isn’t real. It’s just what it sounds like. Imitation.
Rated R for teen drug use and partying, sexual material, brief nudity, and language throughout
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=84074[/img]“Morris from America” is given a very pleasing looking 1.85:1 AVC encode for the Blu-ray. Shot on Arri Alexa cameras it has very clean and detailed approach, despite coming from a low budget shoot. Colors and warm and vibrant, with the outdoor scenes of Heidelberg looking exquisitely detailed at times. There is a sort of sunkissed look to the outdoor shots at school, giving it a lightly bright and warm texture, with strong greens and whites. Indoors it takes a lightly yellowish amber hue and the darker earth tones and primaries take a more active role in the picture. The party scene in the dance club shows some great black levels and the bright neon lights of the club contrast nicely with only minimal banding in those dark spots. There’s a light layer of softness over the film, and sometimes that absconds with some of the fine details, but it’s an overall pleasing transfer all around.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=84082[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is a vigorous and highly active track, giving us a lot of workout with the EDM and Hip-Hop music that pulses through all the channels quite regularly. Dialog is always strong and clean in the center, but the surrounds are surprisingly active for a drama, with light ambient noises from the German city of Heidelberg coming through and the heavy pulsing music driving the LFE channel and surrounds into new heights. There were times where the bass in the club scene really rocks you back into your seat, especially the final one where Morris gets to perform his new song on stage.
• "Making Morris from America" Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• Casting Tapes
• Audio Commentary with Director Chad Hartigan and Actors Craig Robinson and Markees Christmas
Had there been a bit more trimming of superfluous subplots and needless interactions “Morris from America” very well might have been an amazing movie. As it stands now the film from writer/director Chad Hartigan is just a GOOD movie. A flawed film that has some really amazing points and nuances if you can get through the superfluous bits. Craig Robinson and newcomer Markees Christmas really hit their roles out of the park and create something truly special and unique on camera. The Blu-ray package itself is given solid video and audio scores, and even a few sparse extras to fill out the effort. While it may not be PERFECT, I still recommend “Morris from America” for a good, and unique, watch.
Starring: Markeers Christmas, Craig Robinson, Carla Juri
Directed by: Chad Hartigan
Written by: Chad Hartigan
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 91 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: November 8th, 2016
Buy Morris from America On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Solid Watch
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