Tongue Twisters

Thought 'Invictus' was bad? Mastering a foreign accent on-screen is harder than it looks.

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IMDb Pro (Warner Bros Pictures)

Invictus, an uplifting, Clint Eastwood-directed sports movie and Nelson Mandela biopic, seems to contain all the ingredients for commercial and critical success. Of course, box-office stars Morgan Freeman (as Mandela) and Matt Damon (as South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar) will give the film extra juice going into Oscar season. But to some critics, the big names came at a cost. The supporting actors native to South Africa—colored, white and black—do the heavy lifting to give the film an authentic sound, while Freeman and Damon wrestled with the signature South African accent. It’s hard to say the verbal bobbles take away from the film, but in honor of their performances, The Root presents a list of the best and worst accents in recent cinematographic memory:

Morgan Freeman in Invictus

Freeman is a venerable screen actor, with a litany of memorable performances under his belt. And, as New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller noted, Freeman’s mastery of Mandela’s physical mannerisms makes his performance “less an impersonation than an incarnation.” But despite having spent much time with the freedom-fighting former president, Freeman’s pronunciation—especially on multisyllabic words—leaves something to be desired.

Memorable line: “It is a human calculation.

Matt Damon in Invictus

Damon is the lesser of two evils here—as his character leans more toward the “strong, silent type.” But as with Freeman, when Damon does speak (urging his teammates to play “seven minutes” more, or “taste defeat”), he is surrounded by native South Africans who make his meticulously practiced Afrikaner dialect fall flat.

Memorable line: “This is our destiny.

Adam Sandler in The Waterboy

What can we say about the hokey 1998 comedy about a developmentally challenged man who assists a flailing NFL team to glory? Nothing good. Adam Sandler’s idiotic man-child Louisiana accent, however, pushes the film from mere miss to a real disgrace. Memorable line: "No, Colonel Sanders, you’re wrong."

Russell Crowe in American Gangster

The Root 100 People's Choice Awards  
Sept. 19 2014 8:34 AM