A moderately involving, conventionally structured look at the art of public speaking as practiced by nine finalists at the Toastmasters’ 2008 world championship, “Speak” has surprisingly little to say about its subject. Paul Galichia and Brian Weidling’s polished docu follows a now-familiar pattern, presenting brief, sometimes moving snapshots of a handful of contestants, but offers scant insight into the actual skills and mechanics a professional orator must master. Following a brief theatrical run, the pic should do well as a smallscreen item.
After a quick segment on people’s general aversion to public speaking, with commentary from various Toastmasters officials as well as news anchor Chris Matthews, the docu starts mechanically lining up its subjects. Of these, the two most compelling are God-fearing single mom LaShunda Rundles and stressed-out family man Rich Hopkins, both of whom have turned their serious medical setbacks into the stuff of eloquent, impassioned storytelling. Yet their monologues, as presented in brief snippets, are reduced to platitudinous soundbites; an unbroken recording of all nine competing speeches would have revealed more about these gifted speakers, their preparation methods and the specific criteria by which they’re judged.