Sunday, April 13, 2008
"Resurrecting the Champ"
Probably the most honest review I’ve read of "Resurrecting the Champ" comes from J.R. Moehringer who wrote that Samuel L. Jackson did a wonderful job of resurrecting an old boxer "and it was surreal to see him do it." He also said "I loved seeing Champ come to life." Of Josh Hartnett, as Erik Kernan, a Denver Times reporter, Moehringer wasn’t so kind. I mention this only because Moehringer is the Pulitzer Prize winning Los Angeles Times journalist who wrote the original story, "Resurrecting the Champ," on which this movie is loosely based. I also mention it because, as a newspaperman and someone who really knew the character Jackson plays in this movie, he should be able to separate truth from fiction better than anyone, especially when it comes to a movie that deals with separating truth from fiction. The movie portrays Erik as a third-rate sportswriter (his editor, Metz [Alan Alda] says he forgets Erik’s stories as he’s reading them) who sees his chance for a big time story when he stumbles across a homeless man being beaten by some young hotshots in an alley. He learns the victim is actually Bob Satterfield, a heavyweight boxer of the 1940s and 1950s. He decides to write a story for the newspaper’s magazine supplement of how this boxer who once fought such notables as Ezzard Charles and Jake LaMotta, could wind up with all his belongings in a shopping cart in the alleys of Denver. Moehringer is correct when he wrote "Hartnett wasn’t playing me." It isn’t Hartnett’s fault so much as it is the lingering idea that films screenwriters never set foot in a newsroom in their lives. We see Erik getting information from Polly (Rachel Nichols), a researcher at the paper, and spending a lot of time with the Champ and then, seemingly out of nowhere, there’s this story on the cover of the magazine. We never see him anguishing over the writing of it. The other problem is that Kernan’s motives here never seem to hinge on journalism but on seeking the redemption of his wife Joyce (Kathryn Morris), from whom he’s separated and his 6-year-old son Teddy (Dakota Goyo), who idolizes him. The most interesting character in this movie is the Champ, but for some reason, director Rod Lurie doesn’t see this and focuses his story on Kernan, neglecting the Champ as much as the rest of humanity did. Grade: D+