Review: Race, B-
Rated PG-13, 134 minutes
The enjoyably harmless, familiar new sports bio film "Race" tells the story of one of the most celebrated and beloved of Olympic stars, Jesse Owens. Owens' story is certainly a worthy one, and while it's filled with some compelling moments, it doesn't feel well-rounded. Ohio State track-and-field superstar Owens (Stephan James of "Selma") overcomes adversity prepares to compete in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, with the help of his Ohio State track coach Larry Snyder (Jason Sudeikis). Directed by Stephen Hopkins ("The Life and Death of Peter Sellers") and co-written by Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse, "Race" is an entertainingly familiar sports movie that pushes all the right buttons in the right places, though it feels a little sanitized in the same fashion as the 2013 movie "42" about Jackie Robinson. Without a doubt, the highlight and the fascination is everything that takes place on the field, but off the track it stumbles a bit, glossing over details and lacking grit. The 1930's era is impressively recreated, as is the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, but for a movie that's about Owens' story, too much footage is devoted to the politics of the Olympics, with Oscar-winner Jeremy Irons memorably stealing scenes as International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Avery Brundage; considerable time is also spent detailing the relationship of the IOC with Nazi Joseph Goebbels (German actor Barnaby Metschurat) as well the production of the 1936 Games with acclaimed German director Leni Riefenstahl (played by lovely Dutch actress Carice von Houton), and although important, it feels like filler here. James is affecting as Owens, as is Sudeikis as his coach, a "Saturday Night Live" veteran usually known for his humorous roles, though their onscreen relationship isn't fully developed. I would've like to have seen more time spent on the meat and grit of Owens story (and in particular, his struggles after he won the medals), and on that note "Race" pulls few surprises with its rather bland storytelling, but down the home stretch, as long as it stays on the track, it entertains just fine.