Amazing Grace and Chuck (1987)

27 Mar

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Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Wouldn’t it be nice if one small boy reached out for people to listen to him about the way the world is with nuclear weapons, and a high-profile NBA star immediately followed? Of course with the NBA star following this kid’s way of reaching out to the world, the public would be telling the story to the world, making them both heard…but not exactly followed. In the case of “Amazing Grace and Chuck,” the kid is a Little League pitcher named Chuck (Joshua Zuehlke) who is disturbed by what he sees on a tour of a nuclear missile base. He is so disturbed that he makes a vow that until the bombs go away, he won’t pitch Little League baseball.

Chuck doesn’t have a big plan. No, he just says he “can’t play because of nuclear weapons.” This makes him the object of mockery by his classmates and some of the adults in town. His parents try to convince him that this won’t solve anything. But Chuck doesn’t care—he just won’t play.

When someone stops doing the thing that someone does best because of the existence of nuclear weapons, you can expect it to be on the news. Chuck’s story reaches Boston and catches the ear of a Celtics star named Amazing Grace Smith (Alex English). He comes all the way down to Chuck’s hometown out west to meet with the kid and announces that he’ll do the same thing—that is, he’ll quit playing basketball until the bombs go away. And so, the national news is all over this story. People are upset by Amazing’s decision, including Amazing’s agent (Jamie Lee Curtis).

But when a movement like this (as short as it is) goes public, both sides of the world have a little bit of conflict that may grow into something bigger. Before anything (that includes the movie itself) can go too far, the President of the United States (Gregory Peck) speaks with Chuck and tries to convince him to quit this protest. Now this is where the movie is really surprising. This is the point where the movie is supposed to give up on itself and give us cheesy situations and corny dialogue. A movie is in trouble when the President needs to tell a kid to stop what he’s started. But the surprising thing is, Gregory Peck plays the President so well that there isn’t a false note within the performance. He is utterly convincing in this role.

The script doesn’t let him or the kid down either. Something I should have mentioned earlier—Chuck is quiet through most of the movie. He speaks only when he needs to (there are rare moments when he wants to). Eventually, everyone notices this when Chuck is silent through the final half of the film. This works for many reasons—1) We don’t get any scenes of the kid whining about how this is turning out. 2) In being quiet, power is given. 3) He is also quiet when with the President. There are no arguments between the kid and the President to force the President to change his mind about things. There are no big explanations, there aren’t a lot of questions answered, and there is hardly any corny dialogue. And strangely, it works. This is a fresh script.

I also liked the friendship between Chuck and Amazing, the relationship between Chuck and his father, and the exchange of angry words between Amazing and the father, who is jealous that Amazing is seemingly taking his place as role model. I also felt that the Jamie Lee Curtis character was credible.

Just because I felt the relationships between the central characters and Gregory Peck as the President were credible, the story is not entirely credible. This kind of thing about a world peace movement started by one little thing doesn’t happen as easily. But “Amazing Grace and Chuck” is a pleasant little movie that doesn’t expect us to believe that this is realistic. We can buy it as fantasy certainly. But still…wouldn’t it be nice? And that’s the question that the film ends with.

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