Searching for Bobby Fischer is a drama film written and directed by Steven Zillian released in 1993 about a very young chess prodigy named Josh Waitzkin. The film is based on a book written by Josh’s father, Fred Waitzkin. The film stars Max Pomeranc, Joe Mantegna, Laurence Fishbourne, Joan Allen, and Ben Kingsley.
Apparently, Josh Waitzkin is actually a real chess player who then ventured into martial arts and other sports in real life. Josh started playing competitively around the age of seven and was quite formidable even then. The film take a few liberties with the real story but it apparently is largely faithful to the real events and people.
Bobby Fischer is a well known chess master who had a habit of going into seclusion for years at times. Fischer’s spirit seems to linger in this work. There were some interesting flashbacks to bits of Fischer’s life narrated by Pomeranc, who was around nine years old when he appeared in this film.
It really is a strong cast and a pretty interesting story for the most part, but the film was slow at times. This is a great example of the difficulty in making a movie about chess grip the attention of the viewer. Fishbourne plays kind of a cool part as a kind of speed chess hustler in a park where young Josh would often play. Kingsley has the part of the stricter chess instructor, but Bruce Pandolfini ends up not being that bad of a guy.
It was nice to have a movie about parents actually supporting a child’s unusual gift instead of them blocking it. The pressure of competition does take its toll on Josh, but there is an inspiring victory toward the end. I would normally not make a revelation like this, but I think we all know how these films go.
The movie has some interesting and moving moments, but it’s kind of boring overall. I wish I didn’t have to force myself to pay attention as much as I did, but it happens sometimes.