|Available at Amazon.com|
By all rights, greatness should last forever. The idea of a great writer, or actor, or fighter being forgotten with time seems ridiculous, if not just plain wrong. Yet it happens every day. The heroes of yesterday become either relics or sad, pathetic ghosts who are more memory than skin.
Champ is one of these ghosts—a wheezy, raspy old man who wanders the alleys, constantly whispering stories of his glory days to anyone who will listen. At first it’s nobody, except for a group of teenage boys who enjoy beating on a homeless old man to impress their girlfriends, but it all changes one night when a struggling sports writer tries to help him out. This act of cautious kindness will bring both writer and fighter to the public’s attention—in more ways than one.
Resurrecting the Champ works on many different levels. On the surface it’s about a frustrated writer using the story of one man’s glory days in order to create his own, but beyond that this story revolves around the themes of the relationships between fathers and sons, the importance of identity, and the price of integrity (or perhaps the lack of integrity). Each theme weaves in and out through the interactions between Champ and the writer, the writer and his boss, the writer and his son, and so on. In the end, though, this movie explores what it means to be great, and the choices people make in order to reach that greatness.
Josh Hartnett does a great job in portraying the writer. He’s ambitious, manipulative, self-involved, and yet somehow he remains likable. Hartnett seems to be finding his niche as playing the flawed character that straddles the border between likability and repugnance. He manages to inject a core of humanity into the character that doesn’t necessarily absolve him of his actions, but does make them understandable. Take away the pain, the defense mechanisms, and the father issues and the character stands revealed as a pretty decent human being; and in a sense, that is exactly what this movie does. However, as good as Hartnett’s performance is, Samuel L. Jackson absolutely steals the movie with his portrayal of Champ.
Jackson typically gets typecast in the role of the foul-mouthed, tough-as-rusty-nails black man who doesn’t take any crap off of anybody. And while he plays this part well, it doesn’t exactly give him a great range to display his talent. The role of Champ allows him to do this in spades. At times he’s clownish and pathetic, but other times he’s filled with a quiet dignity, which highlights the sadness of his situation. And what really brings his performance home is his voice. Champ talks in raspy, breathless whispers, like all the air’s been completely knocked out of him, and it embodies everything about the character.
Typically movies like this focus on the journey of one character, but what makes Resurrecting the Champ so great is that everybody changes. It’s not just the lessons that the writer learns, but the revelations the Champ makes, and even the realizations made by the writer’s son. Everybody has something to learn in this movie, and that’s what gives it its heart and power.
Resurrecting the Champ was presented in widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio and is a good-looking movie. The film does a good job of using light and texture to differentiate the flashbacks from the scenes taking place in the present. The audio was presented in Dolby Digital AC-3. Most of the sound came from the center track, and there was little directionality; however, considering this is a rather quiet, character-driven movie, that had little effect on my enjoyment.
Commentary with Director Rod Lurie
Featurette (running time: 4:24)
This was a fairly interesting overall look at the movie, but it really didn’t give too much information on the real story the film was based on.
Cast and Crew Interviews (running time: 6:25)
There really isn’t much here, mostly actors talking about working with each other. Samuel L. Jackson had some of the most interesting points in any of the interviews, especially when he talks about the homeless and the character of the Champ.
Theatrical Trailer (running time: 2:25)
Bonneville (2:27), The Darjeeling Limited (2:14), Feast of Love (2:26), and The Final Inquiry (2:25).
This is a good movie that works on many different layers. The writing is strong and the acting is top-notch. Recommended.
20th Century Fox presents Resurrecting the Champ. Directed by Rod Lurie. Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Josh Hartnett, Alan Alda, and Kathryn Morris. Written by Michael Bortman and Allison Burnett. Running time: 112 minutes. Rated PG-13. Released on DVD: April 8, 2008. Available at Amazon.com.