Morris from America Chad Hartigan
Published Jan 23, 2016The teen coming-of-age movie is perhaps second only to the long-distance relationship romcom as the most overdone genre, but Morris from America is unlike any others out there. Unless you can name a movie about a young wannabe rapper struggling to fit in with the hip, techno-loving teens in small-town Germany.
America's Morris (played with believable teenage insecurity by Markees Christmas) is stuck in Germany with his dad Curtis (a winning Craig Robinson). Since Morris' mother died, they moved to Germany so Curtis could coach a soccer team.
When the story begins, Morris' only friend is his German tutor Inka (the charming Carla Juri in a much more restrained role than her body-function breakthrough Wetlands).
Eventually, Morris is convinced to spend weekends at a teen centre, where he meets a series of brats he rightfully dubs "German dickheads." Decked out in bright, pastel H&M garb and obsessed with cigarettes, warehouse parties and "electroswing," the other kids treat Morris like a racial stereotype and constantly hurl insults his way. He does manage to catch the attention of Katrin (Lina Keller), a 15-year-old who loves ecstasy, dancing and, Morris soon finds out, college boys. Her life is a sort of PG-13 version of Christiane F.
Sure, the film's themes are familiar (don't grow up too fast, don't do stupid things because you're in love, etc.), but they're presented in entirely new ways. When Morris' dad discovers his notebook full of explicit rhymes about "fucking two bitches at once," he's not upset by the profanity but bythe lack of authenticity. "Let Snoop Dogg rap about that because he's actually done it," Curtis tells his son.
Morris' hip-hop lingo and constant stream of crackling boom-bap also offer a fascinating juxtaposition against Germany's regal castles, breath-taking landscapes and brightly coloured city streets.
The result is a coming-of-age story that has familiar beats presented in an entirely fresh way. There's no denying that Morris from America deserves your achtung.