A cozy film about a snug college debate team, The Great Debaters both does and does not manage to take you back to a sweeter, simpler time – albeit filled with racial hatred.

Like, George Clooney’s Leatherheads, Denzel Washington’s Debaters conjures up a time and place that rings false – like a surfeit of nostalgia or eating too much fruit cake. Washington directs the picture all sepia-toned and fuzzy as if dipped in syrup, and while the effect is lovely in spots, it never approaches the gritty realism the director reaches for.

Grade: B-

The Great Debaters is currently available.