Film Scouts Reviews

"Any Given Sunday"

by Richard Schwartz

No, it's not the Oliver Stone conspiracy theory behind Rae Carruth or instant replay or even the success of the St. Louis Rams. Instead, Stone has assigned great actors very stereotypical roles -- Al Pacino as the grizzled coach, Dennis Quaid as the veteran QB, Cameron Diaz as the bitchy owner, LL Cool J as the punky running back -- and made a flashy yet unspectacular movie, a routine season-on-the-brink story of a tough-luck pro football team that offers all the drama of HBO's old "First and Ten" comedy series. In fact, the treatment given to the subject is surprisingly pedestrian for the controversial Stone, whose only noticeable flourishes are stylistic, such as the irksome dissolves of the "Ben Hur" chariot scene and a sensory assault of a sound design.

Anybody who's watched more than a few football games or sports movies will find nothing redeeming here -- the football sequences, seeming as if they were written by someone who'd watched maybe three games, seem unrealistic. Scoring continuity problems, improbable coaching decisions and the Arena League-style uniforms destroy the film's authenticity.

A great cast is wasted. Rather than display the restraint that made his "Insider" performance so remarkable, Pacino is relegated to making those trademark windy, bravado-filled soliloquies that are almost caricatures within themselves. Matthew Modine and Aaron Eckhart are wasted in hackneyed roles. There are even cameos by Charlton Heston, Ann-Margaret, Jim Brown... but not a single burning building, hijacked plane or sinking vessel in sight. So it's not a disaster movie in the typical sense, but save a few comic moments -- such as Jamie Foxx's game-time vomiting ritual and James Woods' typically misogynistic turn as the team trainer -- "Any Given Sunday" is a fumble.

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