The Tribune - Spectrum


Sunday, November 5, 2000
Wide Angle

All about winning and losing
By Ervell E. Menezes

AFTER Gladiator, Hollywood fare continues to be middling, essentially pot-boilers which at best are like the curateís egg, good in parts. Why, one wonders? May be the medium is far too accessible and has led to the "have-money, will-shoot" syndrome. The percentage of good films is palpably low.

Take "Any Given Sunday", for example. First, it is of limited interest in India because few follow American football but it is also about the old order changing, yielding place to the new and if Martin Scorcese decided to do it with billiards/pool in The Color of Money," Oliver Stone opted to do it with all the hype and hoopla associated with American football.

"The game is more than the winning," says veteran coach Tony DíAmato (Al Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday Pacino) and though the Miami Sharks president Christina Pagniacci (Cameron Diaz) may not share that view, Any Given Sunday is all about winning and the clashes and trauma that arise out of losing. As the script says "any given Sunday, anthing can happen." and ageing heroes try to hang on and pick the plums while the younger bulls are challenging them for a place in the sun.

Christinaís dad is the one who had a good equation with Dí Amato but then he was younger and could produce the results. Can Christina put up with this fading hero? Quarterback Jack "Cap" Rooney (Dennis Quaid) is another veteran sliding downhill with young black Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx) pushing him hard for a place in the team. DíAmato has already told Jack "youíll be like a son to me. Iíll fight for you till the day I die." This could spark off favouritism.

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It is these key characters around whom Any Given Sunday is set and the hard-as nails Christina is a pro to the core and no amount of persuasion from her mother (Ann-Margret) can quench her thirst for winning. It is only a matter of time when Christina and DíAmato will clash. Touching on racial and human issues, the screenplay co-scripted by Stone covers much grond but does not delve deep enough to make it a real conflict.

Making use of the hackneyed Hollywood formula, director Oliver Stone beats around the bush on many counts without really grappling with the problems but he does a fair job of fleshing out his characters and this keeps the film chugging. As for the all-American game, which comes second only to baseball (remember the film Take Me Out to the Ball Game), he brings out the thrills and spills far too graphically and could have avoided some gory details.

It is a part probably written with Al Pacino in mind and he continues to bawl his guts out, swinging his arms and gesticulating as usual. In fact, one can scarcely imagine Pacino in a less demonstrative role, but then I guess it is the persona he has built over the years and directors like to use it to the hilt. Dennis Quaid is far more restrained and convincing then he was in frequency but Cameron Diaz is clearly miscast though she tries to make the best of a bad job.

Jamie Foxx puts in an impressive performance as the black with a chip on his shoulder and James Woods and Mathew Modine provide good cameos but former sex bomb Ann-Margret gives flashes of her salad days and Charlton Heston isA scene from The Road to El Dorado there only to match the Ben Hur footage. As for Lauren Holly, she still has that spark as she bullies her husband Jack into continuing when he wants to give up.

In fact the best part of Any Given Sunday is that it graphically brings out the point that few folks are allowed to make their own decision and even fewer know when enough is enough. Stoneís view of American football is at best passable but he didnít have to prolong it to 150 minutes.

The Road to EI Dorado is animation film in the adult/children tradition of The Lion King and Anastasia or Tarzan" but then not all of them are as successful as The Lion King. A good many of them fall between two stools and The Road to EI Dorado is one of them. It starts promisingly but the storyline isnít strong enough to sustain interest for all of 90 minutes.

Of course the legend of EI Dorado, that City of Gold, is as old as the hills or may be even older and the two conmen Tulio and Miguel make an impressive start. Actually, Altivo, the horse that helps them escape from a tramp ship is even better. But their attempt to follow the map and get the gold is as laborious as it is undistinguished. The high- priest Tzekel-Kan and the tribal chief and their power struggle evoke little interest and the seductive native woman Chel who is to cause a rift between the two conmen is quite lukewarm. That the voices of these character by big names like Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh and Armand Assante donít exactly lift the film much. It surely isnít one tenth of their presence.

Basically, the screenplay by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio isnít imaginative enough and directors Eric "Bibo" Bergeron and Don Paul have to struggle to keep the story afloat. Also, the music team of song-writers Eltop John and Tim Rice and composer Hans Zimmer who were brilliant in The Lion King arenít able to repeat the performance and they have to contend with a surfeit of special effects. The overall result is all glitz and computer wizardry without much body, let alone the soul. Give me that John Wayne Kirk Douglas Western EI Dorado" of the 1960s any day. The Road to EI Dorado isnít even paved with silver. Clay at most. Quite avoidable.