When black Benny Carson was growing up poor,
He had little hope for success,
But Mother spurred him to keep trying for more
And not simply settle for less.
Encouraging him to read two books a week
And limit his watching TV,
She taught him to love learning more and to seek
New subjects to fill him with glee.
He grew ever smarter, and cockier too,
A violent, unfortunate trend.
His temper he knew that he had to subdue
When he almost murdered a friend.
With God’s help, he studied, and he persevered
To graduate college and train
And work at Johns Hopkins, the halls so revered,
To heal the mysterious brain.
As Candy, his wife, offered her full support,
He dealt with severe operations,
Repairing brain maladies of every sort
And earning impressed commendations.
When Ben had progressed to a surgery leader,
He took a case others would dread.
Two scared German parents, Augusta and Peter,
Had twins that were linked at the head.
While weighing the risks, for four months he prepared,
Assembled a team that would strive,
And tried to perfect how these infants, thus paired,
Could be split apart and survive.
The risky procedure took twenty-two hours
And strained every surgeon’s last nerve,
But both babies lived, thanks to Ben’s healing powers
And his will to learn and to serve.

I had read Ben Carson’s memoir Gifted Hands for a book report before this film version was even made, and I definitely admire how faithful the filmmakers were to the renowned brain surgeon’s real life. They didn’t include every incident, but the film expertly succeeds in the whole purpose for an inspirational biopic – to provide a comprehensive portrait of a life (usually) worthy of admiration and emulation.

A few early scenes are a bit too cheesy, such as Ben’s discovery of his own imagination thanks to a rather stupid blue mouse. Yet the film improves as it goes, detailing how Ben’s troubled mother encouraged him and instilled an eagerness for learning through some uncommon tough love. The humor and drama continue into his dangerously rebellious teen years, and by the time he finds the Lord and grows up into Cuba Gooding, Jr., I felt as if I understood this man’s upbringing surprisingly well. Once he becomes a resident at Johns Hopkins, the film recounts some of his more difficult successes, including the famous conjoined-twin surgery he pioneered. The grueling surgical scenes aren’t explicit, though they could turn off the squeamish, and they deftly bring to life the preparation and difficulty involved in real surgery, which is often shortened or exaggerated in TV shows.

By film’s end, one can’t help but admire Ben for all the disadvantages he overcame to become such an eminent saver of lives. Cuba Gooding, Jr., is outstanding in the lead role and should have received at least an Emmy nomination. The film also depicts his faith favorably without ever becoming preachy. I’m not sure how the real Ben Carson felt about the movie, but I would be extremely flattered and satisfied if such a positive film were made of my life. As far as recent rumors that he may be considering a 2016 Presidential run, all I can say is that, if Gifted Hands is any indication, I wouldn’t mind having such a thoughtful, well-grounded professional in the White House, one who’s a wonderful role model for children and politicians alike.

Best line: (Dr. Carson, to the babies’ parents, immediately after the surgery) “Which child would you like to see first?” (the perfect line for that moment, complete with touching, emotional reaction)

Artistry: 8
Characters/Actors: 9
Entertainment: 8
Visual Effects: 8
Originality: 7
Watchability: 8
TOTAL: 48 out of 60

Next: #143 – Mrs. Doubtfire

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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