Dave Reardon

Points East

By Dave Reardon

Monday, December 27, 1999

Football is not
Stone’s best subject

IN an ESPN interview aired Thursday when "Any Given Sunday" was released, Director/Executive Producer Oliver Stone talked about how he felt it was important that the film be accepted well overseas.

After watching it, I can understand why. A good many Americans will be bored and disappointed by this overblown movie that is filled with more cliches than a network telecast of a real pro football game -- and at 170 minutes, it's almost as long.

Here are some of the fascinating revelations and eye-opening insights delivered in "Any Given Sunday:" Football is a metaphor for war; football is controlled by television, money, and a good-old boy network; players who get hurt or lose a step get tossed aside; blacks are allowed to play the game, but not coach; football is a game of inches (yes, Al Pacino, who plays Miami Sharks coach Tony D'Amato, really says that in the movie).

We could go on and on. But you get the picture -- and hopefully you won't waste your time and money on this one.

Whether or not you liked the angles Stone came from in his previous work (I usually did), it always delivered some level of insight and challenged conventional perceptions of society. But the concepts and storylines of "Any Given Sunday" are so hackneyed and obvious -- on both the football and sociological planes -- that I felt like I was in an 8th grade American Studies class.

MY 14-year-old nephew might learn a lesson about teamwork by watching this movie, but he'll have to find someone to take him to see it because it's rated R. Full of cartoonish flash and sensory overload, this is in one sense a kid's movie that most parents won't let their kids see; there's all the violence, sex and profanity that you'd expect in an unabashed look at pro football.

Of course, a large segment of the movie-going public views that as a big plus. The only problem is, in the same week when a player assaults a referee and another is being held for allegedly murdering his pregnant girlfriend, "Any Given Sunday" is a case of fact being far more revealing than fiction.

The movie does offer some interesting camera work, but the onfield action in the otherwise forgettable "The Program" was much better. In "Any Given Sunday," Lawrence Taylor's character, an aging linebacker, misses tackles twice in the film. Maybe it's only because it's LT, and I don't remember ever seeing him miss a tackle as a real player, but the scenes look very unrealistic. Ironically, though, two of the film's positives are athlete Taylor's acting and actor Jamie Foxx's athleticism.

TAYLOR, in his first movie, comes across as passionate but unforced in his role as the defense's elder statesman.

As a young quarterback whose maturation process is a cornerstone to the film's plot, Foxx talks it and walks it like a real jock (he played high school football). LL Cool J is believable as a running back, too, and James Woods is cast perfectly as a less-than-ethical team doctor.

Regardless, even when all the cameos of former greats like Dick Butkus and Johnny Unitas are mixed in with a big-name ensemble cast, this doesn't amount to much more than Stone making a movie about a subject he doesn't know any more about than most other Americans. We count on him to at least think he knows more than us. In this case he obviously doesn't.

Stone, who also has a co-writing credit, said he cobbled together the best of several scripts, including one written by former 49ers tight end Jamie Williams. That makes me wonder if this film might have had more to say if more of it came from the one voice involved -- that of Williams -- that had actually been in the trenches.

It certainly worked for Stone in "Platoon."

Dave Reardon, who covered sports in Hawaii
from 1977 to 1998, is a sportswriter at the
Gainesville Sun. E-mail

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