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Any Given Sunday

Any Given Sunday: Special Edition Director's Cut

Moviemaking with Kicks

by Johnny Bray

It makes me wonder why studios bother making sports movies anymore. Nine times out of ten, it's exactly the same plot rehashed for a different team, and occasionally, a different sport. They all involve a team that's not doing so well for one reason or another, and throughout the course of the movie, they come together and win it all.

Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday is not much different. It starts off with the former championship team playing their first game after three straight losses. This, for some reason, is played as the worst record for any team in history.

Are the writers not aware of the Cincinnati Bengals? Or the Cleveland Browns?

Anyway, the movie opens with the Miami Sharks' (gee, I wonder how they came up with that name) star quarterback (Dennis Quaid) getting injured. They send in their second string QB who also gets injured. So Tony D'Amato (Al Pacino) is forced to send in their inexperienced third stringer, Willie Beamen (played excellently by Jamie Foxx). He starts off a little shakily, but soon elevates the team back to what it's supposed to be.

The movie focuses more on the off-field action of professional football. Beamen realizes instant success, which turns into music videos, commercials, and all the other sell-out material. D'Amato fights to keep control of his life, and especially his reputation as one of the greatest coaches of all time. All Cap (Quaid) wants to do is get better, so he'll be able to play in the playoffs. However, Christina (Cameron Diaz), the owner of the team, is only concerned about seeing to it that the team gets a new stadium.

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. It pretty much plays like any other sports movie, but with about three thousand subplots involved. Stone makes sure he Hollywood-izes the football action; close-ups of the ball flying through the air, lots of slow motion; you get the picture. What directors don't seem to get, is that people enjoy watching football on TV. If they really want to catch the audience's eye, they need to film it the way people like to see it. If it doesn't look authentic, it doesn't feel authentic. Not only that, but the uniforms look really, really cheap. They look more suitable for high school football, as opposed to the professional league.

The movie claims to have a massive, all-star cast, and indeed it does. Unfortunately, most of the cast is wasted. Pacino and Diaz scream their way through most of the film, James Woods appears for about ten minutes, LL Cool J whines most of the time, and Charlton Heston shows up for as long as he ever does these days. Quaid and Foxx are really the only ones worth watching.

Also included in this film is an endless supply of cheesy monologues, or "inspirational speeches." To add to the effect, it has a nice, politically correct ending (what more can you ask of Oliver Stone), in which everyone realizes their wrongs and makes amends.

It's also interesting to note that just about every game played in the movie ends with high scores for both teams. That is not the NFL. The NFL games are usually fairly low-scoring. Yet another hole in the authenticity aspect.

You'd probably think, based on this review, that I didn't at all like the movie. Well, I did. At least a little bit. Dramatically, it's a decent flick. But if you're looking for something to display some great football action, watch the CFL (Canadian Football League). Any Given Sunday focuses on the behind-the-game action. The on-field action is definitely not worth watching the movie for.

The video and sound are superb. The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and 5.1 dolby digital are good for watching the games. The picture is crystal clear, with lots of bright colours, and the sound makes it feel like you're in the middle of the action.

The extras include a making-of documentary, feature length director and star commentaries, a music-only audio track, deleted/extended scenes, 3 music videos, Jamie Foxx audition tape/screen tests, a gag reel, production stills and ad material galleries, and a bunch of DVD-Rom stuff.

Any Given Sunday, from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
156 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) 16X9 enhanced, 5.1 dolby digital
Starring Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, Dennis Quaid, James Woods, Jamie Foxx and LL Cool J
Produced by Lauren Shuler Donner, Clayton Townsend and Dan Halsted
Screenplay by John Logan and Oliver Stone, Directed by Oliver Stone.


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Updated May 13, 2006