Sandy Kenyon reviews 'Queen of Katwe'

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The inspirational story of a young girl in Uganda whose life was changed by a game opens in theaters everywhere this weekend.

Disney's "Queen of Katwe" tells the true story of a chess prodigy and stars Golden Globe nominee David Oyelowo and Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o.

Who knew the game of chess could be so captivating, or that a teen without any previous acting experience could hold her own opposite Hollywood heavyweights?

Madina Malwanga plays Phiona, a girl much like herself, as both grew up in the poor neighborhood of Katwe in Uganda.

Oyelowo's character teaches chess to the neighborhood kids and quickly realizes his newest student is uniquely gifted, but then he must convince her mother to let her play. He prevails, and Phiona competes in local tournaments before traveling and facing more skilled opponents.

She wins often enough to be called the Queen of Katwe.

"It's a story that is full of hope," Nyong'o said. "It doesn't shy away from the struggle this girl lives in. She's from a very, very abjectly poor background, but she overcomes those things to achieve something bigger."

Director Mira Nair has lived 15 minutes from where the film is set for more than a quarter century.

"We shot the film in a lot of the locations where the events actually took place, so you are seeing a very authentic representation of what Katwe is," Oyelowo said.

Important, yes. Inspiring, to be sure. But please, don't feel you have to see it just because it's good for you. Go instead to find joy in the celebration of the human spirit.

The film offers a window into another world, and it is a feast for eyes and ears. Critics have praised "Queen of Katwe" for enlightening us all, but also for entertaining anyone willing to be enchanted by its magic.
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