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Any Given Sunday Print E-mail
Friday, 01 September 2000

Any Given Sunday

Warner Home Video
MPAA rating: R (157 Minutes)
starring: Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, Dennis Quaid, James Woods, Jamie Foxx, LL Cool J, Charlton Heston, Matthew Modine, Aaron Eckhart
release year: 1999
film rating: Three stars
reviewed by: Bill Warren

All too often, this movie is so loud, noisy and chaotic that it's like having your head in a washing machine full of marbles. It's dizzying, deafening, frenetic, and you don't know why you're there. The rest of the time, "Any Given Sunday" sometimes gets by on sheer nerve, bravura acting and velocity. It's far from Oliver Stone's best movie, but much better than "U-Turn" or "Nixon," and he's giving it his flashy, trashy all.

He has a huge and busy cast, the football scenes are staged with flair and energy, the score is imaginative, and lord knows it's earnest. But for those not deeply into football, at almost 160 minutes it's also exhausting. Even for those who are fans of the game, you're likely to watch this DVD all the way through once, then pluck out the chapters featuring the games later on, since these are brilliantly done in terms of sound, and provide a great workout for a home theater system.

Stone clearly thinks of football as having some great importance that reaches far beyond the boundaries of the game and those who play it. He likens the game to war, but that's a lousy comparison: football players are not warriors, despite every other actor in the moving claiming they are.

Furthermore, Stone suggests that football is even a metaphor for life itself, but it is just itself, not a metaphor for anything else, and nothing is gained by claiming it is. Doing so doesn't make this movie more important or interesting than it is; it doesn't elevate football; it doesn't even elevate those who play and coach football.

Which is the focus of "Any Given Sunday:" The central character is tough Tony D'Amato (Al Pacino), the aging coach of the fictional Miami Sharks, who knows his career is probably nearing its end, but who wants to go out on a high note. The Sharks are on a losing streak, and have begun to hemorrhage fans even from home games. Tony still has the trust of his team, but team owner Christina Pagniacci (Cameron Diaz), has begun to lose faith in the man she used to call "Uncle Tony."

During the game that opens the movie, both of Tony's major quarterbacks, the great Jack "Cap" Rooney (Dennis Quaid) and, uh, someone else are wiped out of the game, and very green Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx) takes over. And even though the Sharks lose this game (after nearly half an hour of screen time), Willie turns out to be a terrific player, even if he's a major showboat.

He continues to quarterback, and the Sharks go from losing winning, while Willie goes from a guy on the bench to one of the hottest superstars in football history, but the acclaim quickly goes to his head, and he begins behaving like suddenly-famous characters always do in movies. Also, he ignores Tony's carefully-developed playbook, and invents his own plays in the huddle -- most of which are intended to showcase Willie.

Various subplots churn, most of which deal in some way with the quarrel between Tony and Christina, whose mother (Ann-Margret) is always around, but uninterested in football. Tony continues to clash with Willie, who doesn't understand the concept of team playing, but the coach persists because he knows the kid is a good player and can't be written off yet. Tony is paternalistic, in the best way, toward his players, particularly with Cap; they have a genuinely warm relationship -- and actors Pacino and Quaid play their scenes together with a touching warmth. They're among the best scenes in the movie and among the few where something other than football is the main subject.

Finally, as in almost all sports movies, it comes down to the Last Big Game -- will the Sharks win the championship or not? Will Tony's methods win out? Will Willie shape up and join the team? Will Cap return to the game? This is the corniest aspect of this movie, which is pretty corny under the surface all along. But then, there's very little about "Any Given Sunday" that's original, at least in the broad strokes; there are interesting and novel details here and there, and some pretty vivid characters. But there's nothing new here.

Stone goes for broke in almost every way possible. The game sequences are exciting and lively, and there sure are a lot of them, but only rarely do we get any sense of the power of a 250-body slamming into a runner. In some scenes, this works better in a home theater system than it did in the theater: the sound seems more immediate and crisp, and all the speakers get their share of action. But still the action seems remote -- interesting but without impact.

Pacino is always at his best these days in roles that require extreme reactions, especially when he can shout from time to time. He has several outstanding scenes here, the best in his pep talk before the climactic game.
Dennis Quaid has had a tendency to be a showoff as an actor, sometimes so much so that he brings the movie down around him, as with "Great Balls of Fire." But here, he's excellent.

Cameron Diaz does her best to make her character believable, but it's an uphill battle even much better actresses might not win. We see her brittleness and vulnerability, but she cannot persuade us that this woman is so greedy that she's willing to destroy what her father built.

Jamie Foxx makes us believe in Willie's transition from a utility player who's just getting by into a hotshot all-star, and in what this does to his personality, but it's harder to believe in the transition from this strutting popinjay into a solid team player. The rest of the large cast is entertaining, particularly James Woods and Matthew Modine, but Jim Brown and Lawrence Taylor are fine, too. The score by Robbie Robertson and others includes a lot of songs, and works well in the context. The Panavision photography by Salvatore Totino is sweeping and expansive; the stadiums seem gigantic, and the action on the gridiron intense and exciting -- much of the time. In the final analysis, this is just not the ultimate football movie, no matter how much Oliver Stone wanted it to be. The DVD is even less ultimate than the movie; which ran 162 minutes. This “Special Edition Director’s Cut” runs 157.

more details
sound format:
Dolby surround 5.1
aspect ratio(s):
special features: Making-of documentary, language selections, music video, trailer, etc..
comments: email us here...
reference system
DVD player: Kenwood DV-403
receiver: Kenwood VR-407
main speakers: Paradigm Atom
center speaker: Paradigm CC-170
rear speakers: Paradigm ADP-70
subwoofer: Paradigm PDR-10
monitor: 36-inch Sony XBR


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