SAVE YOURSELF from “Ali”

8 08 2010

And you thought I had forgotten about this series.

I’m back again with another movie in the “Save Yourself!” series, which is designed to steer you clear of movies that will serve no purpose other than to waste your time.  I see plenty of movies, and better me than you, right?  I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I do.

This pick might shock you a little bit because it certainly shocks me.  Will Smith is the man who can do no wrong; he basically walks on water at the box office.  And director Michael Mann almost always delivers – I’ll forgive “Public Enemies” because “The Insider” and “Collateral” were both great.  And when you throw in a cast that includes Jon Voight, Jamie Foxx, and Jeffrey Wright, that’s another good sign.  Heck, they even got LeVar Burton, who is known to my generation as the guy from “Reading Rainbow,” to play MLK!

Don’t let the signs fool you.  “Ali” is a bore from beginning to end.  Rather than float like a butterfly, the movie drags like a bag of bricks.  And instead of stinging like a bee, the movie lands with so little impact that you could mistake it for having no ambitions at all.

But surely you have your doubts.  How can it be boring when it has Will Smith?  And in an Oscar-nominated performance, no less!  It’s simple: there’s too much Will Smith in the movie and not enough Muhammad Ali.  It’s as if he found the pride of the famous boxer buried deep inside of him and then decided to play only that emotion.

And don’t even get me started on Jon Voight, whose Academy Award nomination for this role is an absolute travesty.  He appears in the movie for literally no more than five minutes, and when he does, there’s no emotion.  There is nothing that moves you, no moment where you step back and say, “Wow, this is a great performance.”  From what I can tell, it’s a very good impersonation of Howard Cossell.  But if he can get that close to Oscar gold for just that, so can any decent celebrity impersonator on the streets of Vegas.

Honestly, I wonder if Michael Mann actually directed this.  He’s made longer movies than this, yet he has always managed to keep them moving at a brisk clip.  “Ali” is like a exercise in hubris, with ridiculously long drawn-out sequences in which very little happens.  In these ten minute stretches, we see more of a nightclub singer than we do of Muhammad Ali, which is who we watched this movie to see.  Mann, with the help of a good editor, could have cut at least 45 minutes from this bloated biopic, although I’m not sure if I would even want to see the movie then.  I can watch Will Smith be himself in plenty of other entertaining movies; I don’t need to see him pretend to be someone he’s not, all the while still being himself.

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