A fictionalized account of true events, Endgame is the story of Jose (Modern Family‘s Rico Rodriguez) and his journey to bring his family and classmates together through chess.
In addition to Rodriguez, the film also sports a mini Napoleon Dynamite reunion by way of Efren Ramirez (Pedro) and Jon Gries (Uncle Rico) as Jose’s chess team coach and principal, respectively.
Turning to his skills in chess after facing family tragedy, Jose finds a sense of purpose and a place to shine. Despite circumstances at home, things are looking up as Jose leads his team to victory with the Texas state finals in reach. When once again misfortune strikes, he must find a way to pull together for the good of his community.
There’s obviously an inspirational story to be told here – as we find out at the end of the film, the introduction of chess teams to the poor town’s school system has been instrumental in giving impoverished kids a chance of escape to make something better of themselves. It’s too bad this movie, and guidance counselor turned director/writer Carmen Marron, don’t know how to properly tell that story.
Instead of being shown the dire situations of the children, and how coach Alvarado and the chess team have improved their lives, we’re told through increasingly awkward exposition. The dialogue is, in all honesty, often cringe-worthy. Over the top in its earnestness, it is less effective for its efforts. Even Rodriguez, who we are used to seeing as his witty sitcom character, comes off as inexperienced due to the dialogue.
Not being experienced in chess, I don’t know whether the strategies or gameplay shown and discussed make any sense since they are never really explained at all.
The story, though quite predictable, is a positive one at least. It just goes about being so rather awkwardly. It’s a good thing we’re told the kids’ lives are hard because it’s never actually obvious that’s the case. Random sequences of dancing and lines that are supposed to be comedic welcome more puzzlement than enthusiasm from the viewer. A few scenes work, where it feels like the actors were given less direction and just went with it. Those are few and far between though.
It’s obvious that a lot of well-meaning and heart went into this film, so I rather hate to dislike it, but good intentions don’t always make a good film. I hope Marron continues to hone her new craft and improves with her next effort, but for now this doesn’t quite cut it.
Mrs. Hamster says:
“McFarland USA was better.”
My rating: Two out of five hats
Endgame checks into select theaters September 25