There are more great (and not so great) coming-of-age movies out there than any of us can possibly watch in a lifetime. But if you have seen a reasonable chunk of them, especially in the modern age, you will know that many of them nail the same beats. That is not the case with Morris from America, which tells a very modern coming-of-age story which is charming, different and truly well done.
Morris From America tells the story of a young, aspiring rapper named, you guessed it, Morris (Markees Christmas) who has recently moved to Germany with his dad (Craig Robinson), who is a former soccer player turned coach. Things get interesting for Morris when German teacher Inka (Carla Juri) sets him up at a summer program to meet and interact with other German kids because that is where he meets the lovely Katrin (Lina Keller), who steals his heart, even though she is kind of a troublemaker.
On paper, save for the German setting, much of this may sound like pretty standard stuff for this kind of a movie. It really isn't. There are so many little, fascinating elements that make this movie so unique. For one, there is the hip hop soundtrack set against the backdrop of Germany, which is really different and very fun. Also, so much of the time the girl falls for the bad boy. While it may not be the first time the nice guy fell for the bad girl, it feels pretty fresh in Morris From America. I write this as a white guy who lives in America, so there are elements of this movie I can't speak to. However, I have to imagine that there is a serious lack of coming-of-age stories that do so from the perspective of a 13-year-old, normal black kid. This movie is occupying a space that appears to be largely empty, and it is doing a very fine job.
This movie wouldn't work if Markees Christmas wasn't absolutely, 100 percent likeable as Morris, and he totally is. There is something so charming about him from the first second that he appears in the movie, and that charm is what presses the movie forward and makes every bit of emotion work. Also, Craig Robinson absolutely crushes it as the dad in this movie. Honestly, after seeing him in so many straight-up comedic roles, it is refreshing to see him do something a little different. Not only that, but there is something so fatherly, human and comforting about him in this movie, that you kind of just want him to actually be your dad. It is a major selling point. It is not hard to imagine Lina Keller becoming a massive star in the years to come, either. There is something about her. Much like Elle Fanning, she just has that indescribable quality that makes her a star.
A24 has figured something out. The movies that they release are not for everyone, but they really seem to deliver in a big way for the audience that the particular movie in question is trying to deliver for. In the case of Morris From America, it is hard to know exactly who this movie is for, but only because it is so delightful and refreshing, that I can't personally imagine anyone not enjoying it. Director Chad Hartigan had delivered something that very well may be listed among the classics like Stand By Me, The Breakfast Club and Superbad in the near future. Morris From America is out in select cities now.