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Overall Rating

Awesome: 9.78%
Worth A Look: 21.74%
Pretty Bad: 26.09%
Total Crap: 10.87%

7 reviews, 50 user ratings

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by EricDSnider

"Ali want for Christmas is a better biopic about Cassius Clay."
3 stars

Michael Mann should be honored for his talent at sleight-of-hand. In 1999ís ďThe Insider,Ē the writer/director took a dry subject (ethics in journalism) and made it riveting. In his new film, ďAli,Ē he takes an interesting topic (Muhammed Aliís career) and makes it dull. Presto!

This 157-minute film begins and ends with Ali in a boxing match, first against Sonny Liston in 1964, and then against George Foreman in 1974. Both of these matches are shown approximately in real time, somewhat compressed from how long they actually took, but still without any cutting away.

The movie in between has the same real-time feel. Some scenes, already about nothing, go on interminably. We see a lot of things without ever getting an indication of why Mann saw fit to show them to us.

Curiously, there are some important details Mann leaves out. For example, the name of Aliís second wife. Or what city the events take place in. (Maybe you already know Ali was from Louisville, maybe you donít.) Or what year it is: After the caption says 1964 in the first scene, we are never told again. Suddenly heís getting divorced, and remarried, and thereís a child, all with no sense that any time has passed. The only method the film gives you to know the final match is in 1974 is to have someone say Ali is not the same fighter he was ď10 years ago,Ē and even that is obviously open to a lot of different interpretations.

Will Smith plays Cassius Clay, who changes his name to Muhammed Ali as the result of his affiliation with the Black Muslims. A big chunk of the movie focuses on his attempt to avoid being drafted to Vietnam due to conscientious objection -- but then, when he wins his court appeal and doesnít go to jail, itís glossed over quickly.

That sense of detachment pervades the movie. We see a lot of events, and hear a lot of talking, but it never seems to mean anything in terms of who these people are. The most interesting relationship is between Ali and Howard Cosell (an unrecognizable Jon Voight), but even that is more entertaining than insightful. (ĒYou want some food for that thing?Ē Ali says in regards to Cosellís toupee.)

Smith nails Aliís swagger and the cadences of his speech; like Jim Carrey as Andy Kaufman a couple years ago, heís not playing the role so much as channeling it. Thereís a fine line between doing an impersonation and playing a character. ďAliĒ points out that sometimes the only difference is that impersonations allow you to wear wigs and makeup (see Jon Voight), while characters require you to bulk up your muscles and change your hairstyle. But in neither case are we actually seeing a real person; itís still just a caricature.

Thereís a parade of supporting characters: Jamie Foxx as Aliís Jewish friend Bundini, Mario Van Peebles as Malcolm X, Mykelti Williamson as Don King, Giancarlo Esposito as Aliís father. What was it about Ali that attracted them to him? Who was Ali, and why did he do what he did? Why was America so fascinated with him? Someday, maybe a filmmaker will spend 157 minutes answering those questions.

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originally posted: 12/22/01 08:46:37
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User Comments

6/30/18 The Champ Now heres a film that could do with a remake 3 stars
9/13/17 morris campbell will smiths best role 4 stars
2/07/06 Anthony A motion picture to remember forever 5 stars
1/30/06 WiseMan For true Ali Fans Only. It made me feel Powerfull though, if you got patience & Apriciation 5 stars
11/12/05 "K" Ali was & still is,a racist and LYING DEVIL.The movie FLOPPED,and deservedly so!! 1 stars
9/13/05 Total Crap Boring, dull movie. Waits too long for the fight with Foreman. For True Ali fans only. 2 stars
8/22/05 ES Too much with the politics, we wanted to see the fighting, the domination and the heart 1 stars
5/28/05 Weltner One-sided portrait of pathological lying hero of black racists,who's fights were fixed. 1 stars
12/27/04 mjoc Reaaly mundane and just boring. Except for Jon Voight 2 stars
8/28/04 amber it was the best movie ever i loved it 5 stars
7/15/04 Daveman Throws in all the sensationalism of Ali's career without giving us any unified message. 2 stars
4/20/04 ALI HBOUS Will Smith along with the score, are the best things about ALI 4 stars
3/23/04 john doesn't capture Ali at all! Smith is in over his head - watch WHEN WE WERE KINGS instead! 2 stars
1/21/04 tatum Scattershot bio almost anchored by Smith 3 stars
1/15/04 Samuel boring at times, but still a good movie 3 stars
11/24/03 brooklyntony I love the man...I hated the movie 1 stars
8/12/03 Pinkline Jones Mr Bean should have got the part 1 stars
7/14/03 Joesco Even as a non-boxing buff I thought this would be good - but it wasn't. 2 stars
6/18/03 magus The greatest, purely cinematic, experience of 2002- I got goosebumps,you feel like ur there 5 stars
6/15/03 Jack Sommersby Maddeningly unfocused and uninvolving. Smith is painfully miscast. 2 stars
4/25/03 mr. Pink Boring. How could Mann have done this. It's even worse than Last of the Mohicans. 1 stars
4/08/03 Andrew Carden Jon Voight Was Amazing, but The Film Was Just Good. 4 stars
1/16/03 Goofy Maxwell Fights=intense, despite Will's lack of intensity. Lost him Oscar, but Ali's still a winner. 4 stars
10/21/02 Joey Joe Joe Junoir Shabanu havent seen the movie 3 stars
6/26/02 Phil M. Aficionado Weinberg's review makes all my points. A ho-hum slice of a larger and great story. 2 stars
5/23/02 natasha exceptional cast, especially Will Smith - he has the charisma to be Ali 5 stars
3/26/02 Jessica Davis (fan of Denzel Washington when he's good) Could've been poli.correct choosing Will instead of Denzel's worst role - ACADEMY EATS SHIT 5 stars
3/23/02 Natalie Stonecipher Amazing. As a non-fan of boxing, I never thought I could like a boxing movie so much. 5 stars
3/17/02 binda this movie was almost a tribute to muhammad ali, a job well done to will smith. 5 stars
3/15/02 Monster W. Kung Not exceptional, but definitely worth a look. 4 stars
2/26/02 Bueller Voight's Kosell make-up was laughable. Pretty good imitation at times. Smith was just Okay. 3 stars
2/01/02 rnmina unfortunately I totally agree with the reviewer, but I think Smith worked well 3 stars
1/13/02 Gay Tooth Fairy Will Smith is good, but not in this movie. He is chunky. I thought Ali was ripped. 1 stars
1/10/02 neo Mann's thumping atmosphere and Smith's performance will truly rock you... 5 stars
1/10/02 malcolm very good, not much new though 4 stars
1/08/02 The Boy In The Designer Bubble Gawd! Rappers in movies! How about Snoop Dogg as Martin Luther King. Stop the insanity! 1 stars
1/05/02 G-Man Another movie crappy movie about the White man keeping the black man down. 1 stars
1/03/02 Turtle Will Smith's perfomance is outstanding, but the movie suffers from a bit of bad direction. 4 stars
1/02/02 paul mann bit off more than he could chew. rent rumble in the jungle instead 3 stars
12/31/01 Marcel It was boring and sometimes I thought I was looking at 60's MTV 2 stars
12/31/01 Butterbean A movie that's misjudged by these "critics" and presents Ali's courage through tough times 4 stars
12/31/01 bumpkin Should have been a Spike Lee film. He did much better with Malcolm X in 3 hours. 3 stars
12/29/01 Too Bad Will Smith is buff but that doesnt save this weak movie. Weak story. Sucking of Ali's dick. 2 stars
12/28/01 Mr Math A big let down. Those who say When We Were Kings is superior are very right. 2 stars
12/28/01 Howard LeDet Movie seemed divided into 3 parts only one of which dealt w/Ali. 2 stars
12/27/01 Sal Gal See the real movie about Ali - when we were kings 3 stars
12/27/01 Todd Best boxing scenes ever, but the rest of the movie is dull as shit. 1 stars
12/23/01 Benjamin.Lesbian Don't waste your time, go see 'When we were Kings' intead 2 stars
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  25-Dec-2001 (R)
  DVD: 01-Jun-2004



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