Finding Forrester

Bomb Rating: 

I figure you can get away with that sugar-coated crap once, but to do it twice and feel proud suggests that Gus Van Sant has read one too many of Oprah's book club selections.

The thing that really pissed me off about "Finding Forrester" was that it took me a while to realize what film it was reminding me of -- which should have been utterly obvious. This first big clue: This film is directed by Gus Van Sant, who also directed its carbon-copy predecessor, "Good Will Hunting."

I figure you can get away with that sugar-coated crap once, but to do it twice and feel proud suggests that Gus Van Sant has read one too many of Oprah's book club selections. Last time it was a story about some lower class white kid (Matt Damon) who turns out to be a math genius. This time, the story is about a lower class black kid, Jamal Wallace (Robert Brown), who turns out to be a writing genius.

In "Good Will Hunting," Damon finds his mentor and savior in Robin Williams. In "Finding Forrester," Jamal finds it in reclusive writer William Forrester (Sean Connery), who lives in a building all by himself. Jamal is actually a basketball star who secretly wants to be a writer. He meets Forrester on a dare from his friends, who figure the guy is a freak because he never comes out of his building. Wouldn't you know it, Forrester is just the guy to change Jamal's life and Jamal is just the guy to change Forrester's.

Is it just me, or has Sean Connery stapled his tongue to the roof of his mouth? He sounds like he's ready to fill a bucket with saliva at any moment. Anyway, Jamal ends up getting a scholarship to a prestigious academy where people mostly want him to play basketball. The conventions are pretty astounding. First, Jamal meets a nice white girl (Anna Paquin) whose father happens to be on the school's board and gets a look on his face like he's eaten bad cheese when he sees his daughter with Jamal. There's also the teacher (F. Murray Abraham) who doesn't believe Jamal is capable of writing the way he does, which leads to an obvious and predictable showdown. Will Forrester come out of his building and help Jamal or not? Gee, guess what happens? There's even a cameo by Damon to remind everyone that though the color of its stars is different, the color of the story is exactly the same.

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