Ever since he was a teenager Henry Cobb (Sidney Poitier) has woken at the crack of dawn and gone out to work in his brickyard, proudly making red clay bricks the old fashioned way with his bricks having been used in many of the buildings in the nearby town. But since his beloved wife passed away Henry has not been in to making the bricks and that means that with a new school being built it may not feature Cobb's brick which doesnt bother the contractors who would make more money if they used bricks from their own automated manufacturing line. But when young Danny Potter (Cody Newton) seeks refuge with Henry as he has had enough of his parents constant arguing he ends up becoming fascinated by how Henry makes bricks by hand and sees the old Henry as a role model and having a young man around helps give Henry the passion back for making bricks.
"Every young boy needs an Ernest in their lives, they need someone outside of their family to put a calming hand on their shoulders and guide them in the right direction, to think before they act and see the bigger picture". That is the opening sentence of another review I wrote of a movie called "The Woodcarver" starring John Ratzenberger and having just watched the earlier "The Last Brickmaker in America" have come to realise is in fact a remake with a few minor changes and a greater focus on the Christian side of things. I enjoyed "The Woodcarver" and I also enjoyed "The Last Brickmaker in America" with both movies delivering the wholesome tone which appeals to me but with different emphasis.
What this means is that much of what I said about "The Woodcarver" I can also say about "The Last Brickmaker in America" but the most important thing is that this movie charms you. Watching how the patient and kind Henry teaches young Danny about doing the right thing, the right way and for the right reasons is what makes the movie whilst being able to take pride in what you have achieved after a hard days work is more satisfying than doing things the easy way. Throw in some nostalgia as Henry reminisces about the past and how as a teenager he started making bricks and you have a charming movie but one which has drama as well as all the time we not only having Henry making these bricks with a deadline but also the marital problems of Danny's parents.
What is clear is that like with "The Woodcarver" the success of "The Last Brickmaker in America" is very much down to the casting of the lead role and Sidney Poitier brings to the role the age and wisdom which the character of Henry Cobb needs. Every time he talks about how things were, the importance of doing things right and even just the way he strolls around makes the character so full of character that you warm to him and want to know all about the life he has lead.
What this all boils down to is that "The Last Brickmaker in America" is a heart warming movie, an old fashioned tale about hard work, respect, pride, honour and quite simply doing the best you can. For those who like heart warming, tales awash with a glow of nostalgia this will be a real charmer.