I think I speak for just about everyone born in the late 1980s and on in that boxing is pretty boring. Sure it used to mean a lot back in the day with victories by Joe Louis that had a major impact on society but the sport lost its mojo a long time ago. After wasting money to watch Mayweather vs. Pacquiao I swore I would never misuse my time with such a mind-numbing sport. But Muhammad Ali is arguably the greatest boxer ever so a film starring Will Smith as The Louisville Lip should be fine right?
Unfortunately “Ali” is just as dull as an actual boxing match despite some strong performances as well as good cinematography. The main problem with the movie is that it’s dry and way too long. I’ve constantly harped on pacing being the biggest issue with many movies and yet again directors just don’t get it. The film is two and a half hours with the good parts only taking about 45 minutes.
While I respect that “Ali” tries to cover a lot of the boxer’s life, from his first title winning bought with Sonny Liston to The Rumble in the Jungle, there is just way too much going on. Plus there are time jumps constantly yet they never tell you what year it is or how long it has been since the last scene. A lot of this could have been fixed with flashbacks instead of this consistent, confusing time path. And let’s not forget about the film’s overreliance on soul music either.
Also the movie does a poor job of introducing the other characters. Most of them I can’t even name and the ones I can were rarely mentioned by name. I mean I know who Angelo Dundee is but they make him almost a secondary character. Really? Angelo Dundee is not as important as these other people I’ve never heard of? Maybe proper introductions would have helped…
Plus the connection with Malcolm X took up too much of the film. I understand they had an important relationship and it had a major impact on Ali’s life but it took up over half the movie. And also their fallout was never really explained, much like the FBI or CSI hanging around him so much.
The true disappointment of “Ali” is how it takes away from some very strong aspects especially Will Smith and Jon Voight. Smith gives his all as the legendary boxer and he nails the moxie as well as rhyming phrases to a T. And his relationship with Howard Cosell is well flushed out as they both give each other grief on the surface but have real respect underneath. Couple these performances with great camera work during the fights and you’d think the movie would be in pretty good shape.
Yet “Ali” does so much else wrong that you lose sight of its memorable enactments. Sure I understand the daunting task of trying to tell the large story of Muhammad Ali’s life but you have to know what’s really important as well as when pacing matters. And while The Rumble in the Jungle was a fine ending, does Ali’s story feel complete without The Thrilla in Manilla? No it doesn’t. Down goes “Ali.”