**.3 GM
Starring: The Fresh Prince, Jamie Foxx, Ron Silver, Jada Pinkett, Michael Michele, Jon Voight, Nona Gaye, Michael Bennt, Charles Shufford, Mykelti Williamson, Jeffrey Wright, Mario Van Peebles, Levar Burton


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I've yet to see "The Insider," Michael Mann's Oscar-nominated brouhaha about cigarettes, but a main criticism I've heard of it is that he took an interesting story and made it as boring as possible. If that's the case, he's struck again with "Ali."

I mean, come ON. This is Muhammad Ali, one of the most charismatic, interesting and relevant people of the twentieth century. You'd think it nigh-impossible to make the man less than compelling, especially with a charismatic, if untested actor like The Fresh Prince taking on the role. True, there was some concern that The Fresh Prince's charisma is of a different sort than that brandished by The Greatest, and that the translation between the two might not work well, but The Fresh Prince's dedication to the role was admirable, and he did a decent job here with what he had to work with... which SHOULD have been plenty, because this is goddamned ALI, for chrissakes. There's SO much interesting stuff in this guy's life that there should be no shortage of material to put in the movie... yet for some reason, Mann thought it best to include about a half hour of footage of The Fresh Prince jogging. JOGGING, for pete's sake!

What the fuck is this crap? I didn't pay to see "Prefontaine," bumblefuck! This is ALI! Here's hoping Ali still "bumayes" your ass for this.

The movie starts by plopping us down in the middle of his life - his last fight as Cassius Clay, whoopin' Sonny Liston's ugly butt all 'round the ring. There's only one shot of Ali as a child. That's it. No backstory at all about his upbringing. Just - bang - here he is, Ali, hob-nobbing with Sam Cooke and Malcolm X. I tried to let that slide and say 'Okay, it's called Ali, so we'll just get the story of his Ali years. Okay, I'll deal with that... not that some more backstory wouldn't HELP US UNDERSTAND HIM or anything... but fine, fine, fine, Mr. Shits."

But the entire movie feels disjointed and meandering. Sudden time jumps, skipping over interesting events, half-developed characters, then ten more minutes of jogging, then a good Ali speech that gets the hopes up again, then more jogging, or perhaps walking or driving. Jeez, somebody looked at this script and said 'This is the definitive Ali movie. We must make it. Give me a donut.' I don't get it.

It's not a HORRIBLE film, because the story of Ali shines through sometimes and makes for some entertaining stuff, but really, I'd much rather have watched "When We Were Kings" again, or any other documentary on Ali. The fact that it didn't come close to doing the man justice makes it that much more troublesome. This film is ultimately unnecessary. If this is the finished product, you just have to wonder what the point is.

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