A review of “Antwone Fisher” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: * 1/2

Rating: PG-13 for language, adult themes

Run Time: 1 hour, 57 minutes

 

 

Call me a Scrooge, but I like my feel-good films to make me feel good.  “Antwone Fisher” made me awfully sorry that Denzel Washington thought he could succeed on the other side of the camera.

Based on the true story of Navy sailor Antwone Fisher (Derek Luke) whose volatile temper lands him in the naval psychiatrist’s chair (Washington as Jerome Davenport), “Fisher” bills itself as an inspirational story about connecting with the inner child to find hidden reserves of strength.  But the psychological spelunking stops far short of the core, lacking real conviction and mired in the syrupy melodrama of bad boy gone good.

Sure, Davenport lends his support and becomes the father figure Fisher never had.  Naturally, his girl stands by her man through thick and thin.  And yes, I can be touched as easily as the next softie, but not by a bland portrayal of triumph or unimaginative direction.

Luke offers up an average performance that isn’t compelling enough to carry the film.  Washington is at his chin-jutting worst, phoning in his performance with a practiced one-two step.   

Kudos to the real-life Fisher for taking pen to paper and letting it all hang out.  Searching for your roots can be a harsh and disappointing experience. But I’m a veteran of enough survival stories to know that there has to be more.  Kudos to me for not choking on the saccharine rush generated by the cloying climax.

Big Fat O for Opportunities wasted  – for Luke to prove himself as an actor with depth, for Fisher to illustrate that his abusive-heavy screenplay can translate into absorbing viewing, and for Washington to demonstrate that he can direct without Oscar-suppliant condescension. Trivial where it should be profound and hyper-clichéd where it should be sincere, “Fisher” doesn’t get the job done.