Bruce Herbeline-Earle stars as Shorty Hunt, Callum Turner stars as Joe Rantz and Jack Mulhern stars as Don Hume (L-R) in director George Clooney’s “The Boys in the Boat,” an Amazon MGM Studios film (Photo Credit: Laurie Sparham/2023 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, Inc.).


(“The Boys in the Boat” trailer courtesy of MGM)

Sports movies might present the biggest cliches in Hollywood history.

If the story does not end in a warm and fuzzy way, why make the movie in the first place?

Therefore, “The Boys in the Boat” does not break new ground and comes across as a swimming version of the movie, “Race.”

What “The Boys in the Boat” does have is a rags to riches story that many can relate to and even more will appreciate.

Many people understand what it means to pull themselves up from their bootstraps.

Not everyone is born with a silver spoon in their mouth.

And some people really must do any and everything to achieve their goals because money is not at their disposal like it is for others.

In “The Boys in the Boat,” Joe Rantz (Callum Turner) has lived a rough life despite his young age.

Money was never guaranteed for him as a child.

As a result, food was never a guarantee.

Like the people 100 years later would say, Joe had to get it out of the mud, meaning whatever he made of his life he had to do it on his own.

Despite the hardship, Joe somehow makes it to college, enrolling at the University of Washington.

Unfortunately, getting admitted to the school and actually having the resources to stay in school represent two drastically different dilemmas.

While on the Seattle campus in the 1930s, Joe must do any possible job he can find to pay his tuition and put food in his stomach, something many of his peers do not have to worry about.

However, when one of his friends who also struggles with paying tuition and room and board finds an unusual opportunity for them to make some extra money, both young men jump at the opportunity.

At the University of Washington, the sport of rowing is a big deal.

However, the rowing program has struggled as of late and is in danger of falling out of favor with the higher ups at the university.

Therefore, Coach Al Ulbrickson (Joel Edgerton, “Loving”) opens tryouts to the entire male student body.

If potential walk-ons like Joe make the rowing team, a job will come along with it.

The problem for Joe is that he has never rowed in his life.

Nevertheless, where there is a will there is a way.

While Joe does not have any formal training in rowing, the physical strength that he has developed by working manual labor his entire life just to eat might come in handy in collegiate athletic competition.

Most importantly, Joe has motivation that his competitors do not possess.

If he does not find a way to make some money, his goals of becoming an engineer will fall by the wayside because he will not be able to complete his college studies.

Added motivation comes in the form of a beautiful young lady named Joyce Simdars (Hadley Robinson) who captures Joe’s eyes.

Staying in school guarantees he will stay connected to Joyce, someone he definitely does not want to lose.

One thing leads to another, and the University of Washington’s rowing team totally exceeds expectations in the water.

Their success in the college ranks begins to mean more to the outside world when politics and patriotism becomes connected to their journey.

However, that is where “The Boys in the Boat” errs because Hollywood has tackled the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and other sporting events that meant more to the wider world because of the threat of Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler.

Hollywood has already addressed the moment in history via movies and documentaries on track legend Jesse Owens and the “Brown Bomber” of boxing, former heavyweight champion Joe Louis.

But maybe tackling the issue again with “The Boys in the Boat” is what the world needs because of the current threat to American democracy and the presidential candidate that seems to enjoy paraphrasing Hitler’s hateful rhetoric.

Nevertheless, it’s the underdog story of Joe that will resonate the most because America loves an underdog almost as much as it loves the freedom of democracy.

Only in a democracy would a story like Joe’s even be possible.

His romance with Joyce is something of the past in many cases.

Men often talk about desiring a ride or die chick who will have their back during sunny days and stormy weather.

In “The Boys in the Boat,” it seems that Joe has found that rarity.

Hopefully, he is smart enough and available enough to appreciate the blessing that Joyce is because many would not understand or appreciate his predicament.

With Joyce, Joe could have someone that helps him finally pull himself out of poverty and into prosperity.

Additionally, “The Boys in the Boat” is also a story about forgiveness and healing.

Many people would harbor hate in their heart for the obstacles that they had to endure in life.

But to move forward, people must let go of the negative past or their future will become negative as well.

Unfortunately, movie reviews must weigh the positives and the negatives.

And the negatives about the George Clooney-directed “The Boys in the Boat” is that other more well-known American boys did what the University of Washington Huskies rowing team did in 1936.

Maybe the racial component of the Owens biopic “Race” added to the story of the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.

But it seems that “The Boys in the Boat” does not add much to that story, except for the rags to riches story of Rantz.






Todd A. Smith
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