Brown sees chess as a metaphor for life: Each move should be carefully considered and an endgame must always be in mind. It’s a useful analogy, particularly for the poor African-American youth enrolled in Brown’s chess club who don’t have the educational or economic opportunities that others enjoy. But Life Of A King’s crippling liability is that Goldberger bludgeons the audience with this metaphor, giving Gooding multiple opportunities to deliver teachable moments that hammer the chess-as-life point home in numbingly repetitious ways.
Unfortunately, this is also the filmmakers’ strategy elsewhere, simplistically chronicling Brown’s journey from ex-con to influential teacher. (He also must reconnect with his adult children, who initially refuse to believe that he’s changed since leaving prison.) Consequently, Life Of A King plays out like a starter kit for this particular sort of heart-tugging drama, each dramatic, emotional and thematic beat happening precisely on cue but without much inventiveness.
Life of a King is the true story of one man's mission to give youth residing east of the Anacosita River a bright future. After being incarcerated for eighteen years, Eugene Brown established the Big Chair Chess Club to get kids off the streets and working towards lives they never believed they were capable of in this inspirational story.