Morris From America (2016)

Directed by Chad Hartigan
Country: USA / Germany

“Morris From America” is a sympathetic coming-of-age comedy-drama written and directed by Chad Hartigan, and starred by Markees Christmas, Craig Robinson, Carla Juri, and Lina Keller.

The film has an auspicious start but ultimately fails to maintain a steady beat and rhyme as it addresses the story of a 13-year-old American kid, Morris (Christmas), who dreams of becoming a rapper while living in Heidelberg, Germany, where his attentive father, Curtis (Robinson), works as a soccer coach.
Morris has funny discussions with his father about rap and the American hip-hop scene, which occasionally lead him to be grounded in a sweet way. Besides his dad and a caring tutor (Juri) who gives him private German lessons, Morris doesn’t talk to anyone else, having trouble in making new friends and adapting to the German culture and the music style that dominates the school – techno and electro-swing.
Despite neglected by the majority of his schoolmates, Morris, who sees himself as an outcast ‘gangsta’, is approached by the 15-year-old Katrin (Keller), a rebellious girl with no preconceptions, who dared to invite him to a private party. There was nothing positive about that, but the two become good friends, embarking later on a road trip adventure.
Along the way, Morris will have the opportunity to put his rhymes in practice and show them publicly, thanks to Katrin’s boyfriend who is an emerging DJ. Jealousy ends up betraying him, bringing more confusion and disappointment into this challenging phase of his life. All of these aspects are part of his growing-up process, though.

So many smart moves during the first half of the film become gradually annihilated by the crescent naivety of a few scenes during the second half. It’s a shame that Mr. Hartigan, who had brilliantly conceived “This is Martin Bonner” in 2013, ended up pushing the limits of a story that had potentialities to become something more than just watchable.
The docile “Morris from America”, a Sundance big hit, managed to spread some charm while showcasing heartfelt performances. However, it failed to become truly memorable due to its eventual decline into treacherous territory.