Oliver Stone offers a Super Bowl alternative
The Super Bowl is all set, and it’s the breathlessly awaited clash between… the St. Louis Rams and the Tennessee Titans? Theoretically, pigskin junkies should be glad that it’s not another matchup of the usual Super Sunday suspects: Dallas, San Francisco, Buffalo, Denver, et al. But unless you live under the Gateway Arch or next door to the Grand Ole Opry, it’s kinda hard to get too excited about these no-profile teams.
Fear not, football fans — there is an alternative. Instead of sitting on your couch watching another Stupor Bowl, how about sitting in a multiplex catching Oliver Stone’s hard-hitting gridiron flick ”Any Given Sunday”?
After scoring a box office TD over Christmas weekend, ”Sunday” has dropped out of the top 10 almost as quickly as coaches have quit the New York Jets. Maybe the movie’s nearly three-hour running time is driving off audiences. But hey, your average pro football game lasts even longer. And at least ”Sunday” doesn’t have constant commercial interruptions.
What it does have is the most bone-snappingly believable football footage this side of NFL Films. It took no fewer than four editors to assemble Stone’s latest opus, and it’s not hard to see why; he shoots the game from more angles than the assassins shot at the President in ”JFK.”
”Sunday” also offers a fascinating all-star cast, led by Al Pacino as the stubbornly old-school coach of the fictional Miami Sharks — finally, a role for which the actor’s incessant shouting doesn’t seem out of bounds. The roster also boasts Dennis Quaid (doing a variation on his over-the-hill QB in ”Everybody’s All-American”), Lauren Holly (as his ball-busting wife), Cameron Diaz (as the team’s sharklike owner), Ann-Margret (as her tipsy mom), James Woods and Matthew Modine (as the team’s squabbling docs), LL Cool J (as a selfish running back), Elizabeth Berkley (as a hooker — a step up from ”Showgirls”) and real-life Hall of Famers Lawrence Taylor (showing impressive acting chops), Jim Brown, and Dick Butkus.
But the game ball belongs to Jamie Foxx, a Cuba Gooding Jr.-esque Oscar contender for his breakout turn as hotshot backup QB Willie Beaman (a role once reserved for the increasingly unlucky Sean ”Puffy” Combs). The ”In Living Color” alum and WB sitcom star delivers on the dramatic promise he displayed in Ice Cube’s ”The Players Club,” expertly evoking Beaman’s evolution from weak-stomached benchwarmer to chest-thumping grandstander. Plus, he does a pretty mean impression of Pacino.
Granted, not everything about ”Sunday” oozes verisimilitude. Pacino dresses more tastefully than any pro coach I’ve ever seen, and the muscle-bound players look more like bodybuilders than slabs of NFL beef. But I’ll take a hugely entertaining Hollywood movie over an up-close-and-personal pregame interview with Rams’ coach Dick Vermeil on any given Sunday.