You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story

The heartwarming story of a completely self-made African-American man's rise to success certainly sounds timely, but "Gifted Hands" -- the latest Johnson & Johnson Spotlight presentation -- struggles to overcome the limits of its subject matter.

Cast:
Dr. Ben Carson - Cuba Gooding Jr. Sonya Carson - Kimberly Elise Candy Carson - Aunjanue Ellis Teen Ben - Gus Hoffman Child Ben - Jaishon Fisher

The heartwarming story of a completely self-made African-American man’s rise to success certainly sounds timely, but “Gifted Hands” — the latest Johnson & Johnson Spotlight presentation — struggles to overcome the limits of its subject matter. Cuba Gooding Jr. frames the story by playing real-life neurosurgeon Ben Carson as an adult (two gifted youngsters portray him for much of the movie), but director Thomas Carter has to work overtime to make scenes of Carson studying and executing a breakthrough medical procedure interesting. Reasonably well made, the pic proves that not every uplifting story readily lends itself to such an adaptation.

Carson is introduced at the top of his game, as head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, where he’s asked to separate German twins perilously conjoined at the head. As he labors to achieve that miraculous feat (and let’s face it, there wouldn’t be a movie if he botched things), the made-for flashes back into conventional biopic territory, revealing that Carson was a poor student, pushed to excel by his illiterate single mother (Kimberly Elise, in the film’s meatiest and strongest performance) and eventually climbed to the top of his field.

Adapted by John Pielmeier (“Agnes of God”), the movie keeps striking the same notes again and again: Ben underachieving, being reassured that he can do anything by mom and then scoring some surprise victory in which he’s praised instead of being scolded by an authority figure.

That familiarity would carry more weight if much of the movie didn’t focus so intently on Ben studying, which is a difficult endeavor to make cinematically engaging. And while Carter depicts the final surgery in gory detail, there’s just no creating suspense around that protracted sequence.

“Gifted Hands” deals sparingly with instances of racism that confronted Carson as he rose into the academic stratosphere, and those scenes do resonate. Yet neither the moments of triumph nor the setbacks can quite make the movie pop emotionally, while Gooding appears constrained by his limited screen time and the narrow demands of the part.

There’s nothing wrong with presenting another inspirational story, and kids could do far worse than embracing Carson’s against-all-odds accomplishments as a role model. From that perspective “Gifted Hands” is an understandable choice for both TNT and the sponsor. Yet in the final analysis, this is one of those viewing experiences that help remind you — more literally than most — why creating a feel-good TV movie isn’t brain surgery.

Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story

TNT, Sat. Feb. 7, 8 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Detroit by Thomasfilm and the Hatchery in association with Sony Pictures Television. Executive producers, Margaret Loesch, Dan Angel, Bruce Stein, Thomas Carter; co-executive producers, Lester Parris, Lennox Parris; producer, David Rosemont; director, Carter; writer, John Pielmeier; based on the book by Ben Carson, Cecil Murphey;

Crew: camera, John Aronson; production designer, Warren Young; editor, Peter Berger; music, Martin Davich; casting, Denise Chamian Casting. 120 MIN.

Cast: Dr. Ben Carson - Cuba Gooding Jr. Sonya Carson - Kimberly Elise Candy Carson - Aunjanue Ellis Teen Ben - Gus Hoffman Child Ben - Jaishon Fisher

More TV

  • A Visitor Walks in Front of

    MTG's Viaplay, TVNZ Join Forces on Banijay's Drama 'Straight Forward' (EXCLUSIVE)

    The heartwarming story of a completely self-made African-American man’s rise to success certainly sounds timely, but “Gifted Hands” — the latest Johnson & Johnson Spotlight presentation — struggles to overcome the limits of its subject matter. Cuba Gooding Jr. frames the story by playing real-life neurosurgeon Ben Carson as an adult (two gifted youngsters portray […]

  • Mipcom: TV Azteca and Keshet International

    Mipcom: TV Azteca and Keshet International Announce Scripted Content Co-production Deal

    The heartwarming story of a completely self-made African-American man’s rise to success certainly sounds timely, but “Gifted Hands” — the latest Johnson & Johnson Spotlight presentation — struggles to overcome the limits of its subject matter. Cuba Gooding Jr. frames the story by playing real-life neurosurgeon Ben Carson as an adult (two gifted youngsters portray […]

  • Movistar +’s Domingo Corral on its

    Mipcom: Movistar +’s Domingo Corral on its First Series, Competitive Assets

    The heartwarming story of a completely self-made African-American man’s rise to success certainly sounds timely, but “Gifted Hands” — the latest Johnson & Johnson Spotlight presentation — struggles to overcome the limits of its subject matter. Cuba Gooding Jr. frames the story by playing real-life neurosurgeon Ben Carson as an adult (two gifted youngsters portray […]

  • Mipcom: ‘The Lawyer’s’ Producers, Star Talk

    Mipcom: Wikström Nicastro, Gladinoff, Bauer and Krim Talk About ‘The Lawyer’

    The heartwarming story of a completely self-made African-American man’s rise to success certainly sounds timely, but “Gifted Hands” — the latest Johnson & Johnson Spotlight presentation — struggles to overcome the limits of its subject matter. Cuba Gooding Jr. frames the story by playing real-life neurosurgeon Ben Carson as an adult (two gifted youngsters portray […]

  • Mipcom Briefs: Six Stories From BBC,

    Mipcom: BBC’s 'What Not to Wear' Heads to Mexico, All3media Delivers 'Rellik,' and 'Neanderthals' Leave Germany and Head East

    The heartwarming story of a completely self-made African-American man’s rise to success certainly sounds timely, but “Gifted Hands” — the latest Johnson & Johnson Spotlight presentation — struggles to overcome the limits of its subject matter. Cuba Gooding Jr. frames the story by playing real-life neurosurgeon Ben Carson as an adult (two gifted youngsters portray […]

  • Mipcom:U.K., Brazil Lead Pack Of 2017

    Mipcom: U.K. And Brazil Lead the Pack of 2017 International Emmy Kids Nominees

    The heartwarming story of a completely self-made African-American man’s rise to success certainly sounds timely, but “Gifted Hands” — the latest Johnson & Johnson Spotlight presentation — struggles to overcome the limits of its subject matter. Cuba Gooding Jr. frames the story by playing real-life neurosurgeon Ben Carson as an adult (two gifted youngsters portray […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content