Big George Foreman: Review
Big George Foreman Synopsis: Fueled by an impoverished childhood, George Foreman channels his anger into becoming an Olympic Gold medalist and World Heavyweight Champion. His experiences in the ring guide him toward a new pathway as a preacher before unretiring to become the oldest champion in history.
The biopic assembly line presses forward with Big George Foreman: The Miraculous Story of the Once and Future Heavyweight Champion of the World (yes, that is the actual subheading). On paper, I see the appeal of a George Foreman feature. He is a ubiquitous figure in athletics and popular culture, defying conventional wisdom at every turn by sticking to the beat of his own personable drum. I am sure you can imagine the vast potential that could result from diving inside the gloves of the magnetic icon.
Like many wayward biopics before it, Big George Foreman stumbles into the ring as a vacant shadow of its subject. The film is just as clunky as its ungainly title would suggest, striking a generic one-two punch that will leave viewers knocked out from sheer boredom.
I struggle to understand why Hollywood never learns from the countless failures of the subgenre (the past few months alone produced Sweetwater and I Wanna Dance with Somebody). Instead of potentially subverting the tired trends, Big George Foreman embraces every cliche in the book. It's almost like the team involved studied a formula on how to produce the most soulless and sanitized film imaginable.
The screenplay is easily the most glaring weakness. Foreman's life features many monumental moments, from breaking out on the boxing scene as an unheralded youth to a mid-career religious epiphany, not to mention his various entrepreneurial endeavors. Yet, in a misguided creative decision, Big George Foreman attempts to reflect on all of these facets across a bloated 2-hour runtime. This decision creates a film that plays out like an awkward blending of half-written Wikipedia entries, regurgitating bullet-point facts but never capturing the humanity ingrained in these experiences.
Showcasing a historical figure's timeline is not a biopics job; the genre's duty is to try and develop an understanding of what the person may have been thinking or feeling during those seminal periods. Unfortunately, despite Foreman's thought-provoking quandaries with spirituality and defining a legacy from humble beginnings, I never felt that Big George Foreman offered anything other than surface-level reflections. Instead, an onslaught of sanctimonious speeches and preachy instances of hero worship serve as cheap substitutes for any meaningful shading (any wrongdoing in Foreman's life is given minimal attention).
The great shame with Big George Foreman is there are talented people involved. Director George Tillman Jr. infused a sensitive, character-driven focus in pertinent works like The Hate U Give and Soul Food. While his competent touch guides the combative boxing scenes along, Tillman Jr. rarely imprints his voice amidst the broken screenplay and a cacophony of over-eager score choices. The performances also showcase promise. Khris Davis nails Foreman's distinct dialect and commanding gravitas as the film's lead, and the presence of impactful character actors, like Forrest Whitaker and John Magaro, deliver much-needed weight into the proceedings. Everyone involved displays enough talent to leave viewers wishing they were featured in a film worthy of their time.
Big George Foreman is an empathic swing-and-a-miss in its attempts to define a herculean figure. I hope the inevitable next attempt to capture Foreman's life onscreen does so with a more impactful creative punch.
Big George Foreman is now playing in theaters.