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ANY GIVEN SUNDAY (2000) *** movie review by COOP

Posted on May 14th, 2008
Posted on May 14th, 2008

Oliver Stone’s newest film, “Any Given Sunday”, closely resembles an overly long MTV music video, inter-cut with scenes from the current ESPN football coverage. That’s what you see on the surface. Underneath lies a good script, great performances and a story that actually holds up to the bombardment of flashy images.

The story follows a large ensemble cast, headed by Al Pacino playing Tony D’Amato, the Grizzled coach of the fictional Miami Sharks. As the story opens, Pacino starts the fourth game of a bad season by losing his star quarterback (Dennis Quaid) to a potential career-ending injury. To ad insult to injury, he loses his second-string QB in the next play, sending the green third-stringer Willie Beaman (Jamie Foxx) into a trial by fire. Beaman emerges from the next couple of games a hero and soon a media sensation. From there on, the film becomes a story about the price of fame, the sanctity of teamwork, and the redemption of those who have fallen… and this means the entire cast of characters.

These people have a lot of flaws to overcome. Particularly the young heiress-owner (Cameron Diaz), who is so mean and nasty that we want to see her defeated at first. Soon, we get to see that she is human. With a drunk mother (Ann Margaret) and a dead father, you understand why she has a chip on her shoulder. We identify with her struggle to earn respect and succeed. The same goes for the others including Pacino who tries to end what may be his last season with a victory. He drinks too much, he’s a bit of a loser, but he’s got integrity and pride.

The cast is enormous and almost doesn’t have time to focus on any of them for an extended amount of time. Charlton Heston, Jim Brown, James Woods, Mathew Modine, Lauren Holly, Lela Rochon, LL Cool J, and many others play minor roles with story lines that don’t have enough time to be developed thoroughly. There is a subplot surrounding the dangers of playing with serious injuries with doctors and coaches turning a blind eye from the whole thing. Disappointing that no serious consequences arose from these moral lapses.

Performances were good all around. Pacino once again plays himself as a character. Great but no surprises there. Quaid’s performance works in another understated but effective role. Diaz once again proves that she is one of the most versatile new actresses in the business. Going from her role in the amazing “Being John Malkovich” to this shows that she could be the next Meryl Streep if she chooses to continue this trend. Jamie Foxx is the real surprise in this film. Foxx beat out many A-list stars for this role due to his real-life athletic ability as a quarterback. His casting was certainly not a mistake. I hope to see more of him in non-comedy roles in the future.

Stone hasn’t had as much critical luck lately in recreating the success of some of his past masterpieces like “Platoon” or “JFK”. One factor might be that his camera work and the images he uses are becoming more and more abstract. One example is where visuals of a lightning storm are superimposed on a scene in which Foxx and Pacino come to blows over Foxx’s lack of leadership. Is that needed? Probably not, since it distracts from the story draws too much attention to form. However, it seems as if Stone is trying to increase the intensity of the situation for the audience. It works, but a little too well. “Sunday” will leave you exhausted with its 170 minute running time and the loud audio/visual experience will pummel you into submission. Precisely the same effect of watching an exciting gridiron game… I suspect that was Stone’s intention.

Not entirely a great movie but it’s definitely got the entertainment value there. Pro football fans will love it, but beware… if your date won’t sit down and enjoy a football game on occasion, then it’s a good bet they will be bored. As for me I enjoyed the performances and the script, but the rest left me overwhelmed and beaten.

Scale of 1-5:
3

Best performance:
Jamie Foxx. Going from his C-grade comedy show on the WB network to a terrific performance like this is practically a miracle. Honorable mention to Aaron Eckhart as the team’s press box statistician and high-tech strategist. After seeing him in the vicious art-house film “In the Company of Men”, I knew he would easily make the transfer to mainstream Hollywood.

Biggest gripe:
Too long. Could’ve been cut down to about 2 hours and it wouldn’t have lost any edge. Also some of the characters were a bit stereotyped. The rap video that Foxx does after he sells out is horribly annoying, even if it’s true to real-life super athletes (remember when Shaq O’Neal tried to be a rapper/actor?). Shudder.

Most enjoyable aspect of the movie:
The fictional pro teams. Their mascots, uniforms and fans were great fun to look at, seeming totally alien from the current NFL teams. Strangely enough the Los Angeles Crusaders and the Dallas Knights had the weirdest team names and the ugliest uniforms to ever be worn on a football field. Hidden message there? I think so. Also be on the lookout for former pro football legends (like Johnny Unitas) who show up briefly as the coaches for the opposing teams.

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