Friday, August 24, 2007

Resurrecting the Champ

I remember watching the trailer for this film and wondering why it wasn’t made for the ABC Family channel. Truth is I’m not much of a Josh Hartnett fan, other than his small roles in films like The Virgin Suicides and Sin City. This film, as cheesy as it is at times, comes off with some heart, and Hartnett deserves most of the credit.

Erik Kernan (Hartnett) is a sports writer, who, as his boss (Alan Alda) describes, has a talent for typing with very little writing. Looking for a shot on the newspaper’s magazine, and a cushier gig, Erik proposes the story of a former boxing champion Bob Satterfield (Samuel L. Jackson) now living on the streets.

Although much of screen time of the film is taken up with Satterfield and his story and Kernan’s attempts to tell it to the world, that’s not what the film is really about. More than anything else this is a film about fathers and sons. Kernan deals with being separated from his wife (Kathryn Morris) and six-year-old son (Dakota Goyo), and at the same time tries to come to terms with the legacy of his father, a legendary radio announcer.

The film comes dangerously close to soap opera on a couple of occasions but somehow always has just enough smarts to turn away. There’s a twist to the film, which if you read too much about the plot will be spoiled, but imagine my surprise when I discovered it wasn’t given away in the trailer!

Performance wise the cast is solid and Harnett proves capable of carrying a film. Jackson provides the expected weird-guy supporting role, and except for a make-up issue or two in a couple scenes, does what is required of him. And I would be remiss if I didn’t offer praise to young Dakota Goyo who never gets too cute for the story or hams it up to the camera.

My favorite scene of the film takes place between Hartnett and Teri Hatcher who has a small role as a marketing exec for Showtime. It boils done much of what is wrong with news and entertainment today in under five-minutes; it’s almost worth the price of admission all by itself.

People looking for an uplifting tale about a down and out boxer’s return to glory may be surprised by the film they actually get here. Aside from an unnecessary tacked on epilogue, the film deals with complex issues and relationships and isn’t afraid to be depressing when it needs to.

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