Monday, December 12, 2011

Movie Reviewed - Any Given Sunday

Sometimes, you go into a movie expecting a lot, and you're left disappointed. Sometimes, you go into a movie not expecting much, and being pleasantly surprised. And sometimes, you go into a movie expecting mediocrity, and you get it. Such was the case with Any Given Sunday, rated a middling 50% on Rotten Tomatoes.

The movie is about a football team (obviously), struggling to make the playoffs as all teams do. They suffer an injury to their starting quarterback, and the film follows the rise and fall of the backup quarterback, played by Jamie Foxx. He starts out nervous and wild, but shows flashes of brilliance, and becomes one of the big stories of the season.

There are ups and downs, crises of character, and the whole gamut of experiences that we so often encounter in Oliver Stone's films. But the thing about trying to make a non-traditional football movie, a football movie about football players, rather than the team, is that most of the time, you get caught. You get caught between exploring the various characters and their trials, and trying to tell the story of a football team. You delve into the players because as a writer, that's where you wanted to go with this movie. But you follow the team because that's what a lot of movie-goers want to see, and, if we're being truthful, football sells.

Don't misunderstand me, though. There are definitely bright spots in the film. Lawrence Taylor actually does a damn good job portraying a half-crazy defensive star whose injuries put his life at risk. And as a Redskins fan, I can completely identify with an up-and-down season with an intrusive owner. Finally, Al Pacino's big speech (a mandatory in all sports movies) is quite good...and not just because it's used in a montage at Caps games.

But there are too many parts that feel like they're trying to say something that just don't go anywhere. There are so many concurrent storylines that it feels like none of them really get fleshed out appropriately. There's a doctor who over-medicates players (and his intern who disagrees with his actions), a linebacker who's trying to get to a performance incentive, the two quarterbacks each with their own set of circumstances, a legendary coach who's time may have passed, a severe owner who inherited the company from her father, assistant coaches, secondary players, and a whole slew of family and friends.

I'm reminded of a quote from a quirky Michael Douglas movie called Wonder Boys:
"...it sort of reads in places like you didn't make any choices. At all."
I think in all work, you have to make decisions to leave things out, to say that this is the story I want to tell, and the only stuff I'm going to include is the stuff that makes this story more complete. The storyline with the team doctor is interesting, but it's utterly useless to the main storyline of the coach, or the secondary storyline of the quarterbacks. I feel like, for as important as teamwork is to football, this movie needed to be a little less about the team.

The Last Word: Fine. It was fine. Worth seeing once, not worth seeing again.

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