My husband and I saw Queen of Katwe this past weekend and it's a departure from typical Disney films in a major way - the mother doesn't die, or isn't already dead or missing. As a young mom growing up watching Disney films with my son, I kept wondering why do all the moms die in Disney films? I mean it's everywhere. From Bambi to Finding Nemo -- a story arc that spans decades.
Queen of Katwe is a Disney formula departure, but it's almost too much. First of all, the lead character Phiona's mother is played by the amazingly beautiful and probably too young to be Phiona's mother, Lupita Nyong’o. Then Nyong’o comes across as an overly tough single mom of four children with little confidence in Phiona's chess game as a way to transform their family. Phiona's chess coach played by David Oyelowo really plays more of a parental figure while her mother's character is focused on the day-to-day survival needs of her children.
In Disney's favor, Phiona's mother lives until the end of the film and is paid her due by her children, her daughter's chess coach, and her community. It feels pretty forced but I'll take it over the typical dead mother storyline Disney has used all too often.
I'm always a proponent of a girl power film and this is one of them. Getting better Disney.