17 ago. 2010

My Review: The Champ (5/10)

¨We did some silly things. Who knows why people do what they do? Nobody knows that, but she's... she's a good person.¨

The Champ has divided audiences over the world; there are those who consider this to be a masterpiece and others who believe it`s just a terrible movie that tries too hard to be a tearjerker.  I wouldn`t agree with either statement, the movie isn`t a masterpiece, but it isn`t terrible either. It has it`s touching moments with a good performance from Jon Voight as the lead actor. I did have some issues with the child actor, Rick Schroder, but it had more to do with the material he had to work with than anything else. The producers tried too hard in making him look so cute that his character lost credibility. This 1979 film, directed by Franco Zeffirelli, is actually a remake of a 1931 movie of the same name directed by King Vidor and written by Frances Marion. So remakes have been a part of Hollywood for years now, it`s not something new like many people might think. The screenplay for this film was adapted by Walter Newman and in my opinion it is the weakest part of the movie. The script doesn`t feel real, it is overly dramatic and I just couldn`t make sense of several scenes. For example, there is one scene where Voight`s character abandons his son in a boxing gym to grab some drinks in a bar. The kid ends up alone trying to figure out where his father went and deduces he is probably at a nearby bar. I know there might be some parents that would do this, but I doubt they could have raised their child as well as Schroder`s character seems to have been raised. His love and passion for his father, the champ, is hard to believe because he seems so selfish and cruel at times.

The story takes place in Hialeah where Billy Flynn (Jon Voight), a former boxing champ now in his late thirty`s, is working as a race horse trainer. He lives with his seven year old son, T.J. (Rick Schroder), who absolutely worships his father and calls him the champ. Billy raises his son on his own since his mother abandoned them when T.J. was born, although he has told his son that she passed away. T.J. seems to be more mature then his father and is always cleaning after his mess. Billy dreams of making a comeback in boxing, but he suffered a head injury that made him abandon the sport. He also is a compulsive gambler and alcoholic. One day he even steals money from his son`s allowance in order to gamble. This time however, Billy wins a lot of money and decides to buy his son a race horse after feeling guilty for what he did. T.J. names his horse “She`s A Lady” and takes her to the race tracks where he meets a lovely woman named Annie (Faye Dunaway).  When Annie runs into Billy she realizes that T.J. is the son she has abandoned and now wants to make up for what she has done. Annie is a successful designer who is married to a wealthy doctor. At first Billy doesn`t want anything to do with her and insists in not letting his son know she`s alive, but due to his gambling problems he will be forced to. The only solution Billy can think of in order to give his son a better future is returning to what he does best: boxing.

The Champ relies too heavily on the dramatic effect and that is what ends up hurting the movie because many scenes seem to fit the screenplay for the convenience of the movie and it just doesn`t feel real. There are some strong scenes, which I agree were well acted like the prison scene or the final scene, but there were others that felt phony and overacted, like the scene where T.J. screams at Annie in the boat. My biggest disappointment was that I felt T.J. to be a one dimensional character. He was there to make the movie look cute and make the audience sympathize with him.  Billy, on the other hand, was a character we sometimes despised and at others loved and identified with. Audiences that enjoy heartfelt films and tearjerkers will probably love this movie, but audiences who are searching for more character depth will probably be disappointed with it. I had a hard time with the beginning of the film, and found the last half of the movie more entertaining, but it is far from being the masterpiece some people claim it to be.


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