From Sundance to Cinema Detroit: Go See 'Morris From America'


The German language is not particularly beautiful. The guttural and harsh sounds are not sonically appealing. Yet, the Germans have mastered the art of building a language. Their best word might be "bildungsroman." It translates into a story that "builds character." This epitome of the language found an epitome in the film world. Morris From America is the ideal bildungsroman. It is about a 13-year-old boy finding himself after relocating to Heidelberg, Germany. 

That premise isn't exactly revolutionary. You can tell where the movie is going before it even gets there. This would be a major drawback if it were not for the effortless charm between our lead and every player in his story. Newcomer Markees Christmas plays Morris as real as any teen character on screen in a long time. He lashes out when uncomfortable, he has so much freedom that it borders on irresponsibility and every poor decision is based entirely on a his love for a girl. Whether Morris is talking with his German tutor, the youth group bully or his dad, it all feels genuine.

The thoroughly enjoyable film goes from good to great when you look at Christmas' co-star Craig Robinson. Robinson plays the kind of parent we probably all want to be when we grow up. Yea, he makes dick jokes with his son, but knows when to be harsh, reminding the audience (and Morris) who's in charge. If you're a young father, see this movie.

We've all been the new kid at some point in our lives. The level of discomfort stays with us for years. I can't remember much of last week, but I have vivid memories of embarrassment stemming back to elementary school. Morris From America won't transport viewers back to those days, but there will be plenty of empathizing.

Just as we lived through our own bildungsroman, Christmas and Robinson do a superb job of capturing it in its rawest form in Morris From America.

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