A movie can be overrated for any number of reasons. It may be a very good film, but simply not merit the accolades it receives. It may ride the coattails of current events to garner more attention that it deserves.
It could inaccurately present a subject, leaving its audience unwittingly ill-informed. It may even appear like a quality film before further investigation reveals that it's nothing but a ripoff of a classic.
Sports movies are no different.
While they tend to get a lot of play in the media and attract big-name stars, films about sports are difficult to pull off, with so many fanatical sports enthusiasts dissecting each word, pitch, snap, and shot, as well as the historical accuracy of the events presented.
From Oscar winners to cult classics, here are 10 sports movies that don't merit the attention they have garnered since their release.
It appears the average movie-goer has been brainwashed to believe that any Robert Redford-directed movie starring A-listers like Matt Damon, Will Smith and Charlize Theron could not possibly be a terrible film, because there is no reason on Earth that any rational person would give above-average, or even average, ratings to The Legend of Bagger Vance.
Let me get this straight: A PTSD-suffering World War I vet (Damon) whose life is spent inside a bottle of whiskey is convinced by his former girlfriend (Theron) to sober up long enough to play golf legends Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen in an exhibition match, only to triumphantly and honorably tie the two icons with the help of Bagger Vance (Smith), a mysterious traveler who appears out of thin air to give guidance to our tortured protagonist and, well, to caddy for him, too?
There are so many things wrong here. The cast's miserable Southern accents. The bland and predictable plot. The film's use of the "Magical African-American Friend," a stereotypical black character who helps out a white protagonist through the use of special powers, and which Spike Lee derisively calls the "super-duper magical Negro."
But one issue stands out among the rest: I'm still not convinced that The Legend of Bagger Vance isn't really just some brilliant depiction of a drunk's hallucinations while he's in the throes of withdrawal.
Suggested Alternative: The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005)
I don't feel the rhythm or the rhyme. I'm not going anywhere. It is most certainly NOT bobsled time.
Cool Runnings came from a good place, but why would anyone take an inspiring story of four black athletes overcoming great odds and racism to foster acceptance and sportsmanlike competition, and turn it into a comedic farce about a bunch of stereotypical Rastafarian-looking buffoons who can barely get out of their own way?
Yes, the filmmakers tried to recognize the gravity of the hurdles that the team faced, but that aim took a backseat to cheap laughs.
The fact that this movie made more than $150 million worldwide and garners good ratings from critics and movie fans alike isn't evidence of its quality but is instead merely proof that our society has light years to go.
The only reason anyone watches Cool Runnings is because it's so bad, it's good (and we're all ironic nowadays, right?). But this one's not worth the time or effort. Even John Candy's performance was mailed-in and uninspired.
Suggested Alternative: The Jesse Owens Story (1984)
A scrappy, washed up, and under-sized former high school football player tries out for his favorite team, makes the squad against all odds, and eventually finds his way onto the field for one defining moment of glory before a home crowd? Where have I heard that before?
Oh right, it's called Rudy.
Unfortunately, Invincible, a bad knockoff of Sean Astin's shining moment in film (unless you're a Tolkien-lover, or maybe a Goonies fanatic) doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same paragraph, let alone sentence, as the king of all scrappy underdog movies. If you're looking for inspiration, stick with the original.
Suggested Alternative: Rudy (of course)
On Oct. 27, 2004, I tearfully watched my Boston Red Sox storm the field after sweeping the Cardinals to claim their first World Series in 86 years. It remains, to this day, my greatest sports memory (with apologies to Michigan’s 1998 Rose Bowl victory).
As Tito’s band of idiots piled up near the first base line of old Busch Stadium, I noticed the camera cut to Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore running onto the field and hugging. I only remember thinking one thing:
“What the f***?!?!”
Never failing to turn down an opportunity to market the team (or potentially jinx a 3-0 lead), Boston’s front office apparently green lighted what eventually became the climactic scene of the Farrelly brothers’ American film version of Nick Hornby’s novel Fever Pitch.
And then, right in the middle of what should have been a joyous celebration of many lifetimes’ worth of devotion to the Old Town Team, millions of Sox fans were wondering why we couldn't be left to just enjoy the moment.
Released shortly after the Sox got their World Series rings and raised the banner at Fenway at the start of the 2005 season, the movie received an inordinate amount of press. Unfortunately for Sox fans, the problems with the movie are numerous.
First and foremost, Fallon may be a helluva late night host, but he was terrible at portraying Ben, the diehard Sox fan who nearly threw away both his team and the love of his life, Lindsey (played by Barrymore) while he tried to juggle the two during the Sox championship run.
He’s simply too goofy, to the point where it was impossible to believe any of the scenes where he supposedly became despondent over the team’s trials and tribulations.
Also, the portrayal of Lindsey as completely oblivious to the Red Sox (while living and working within walking distance of Fenway) falls flat. Anyone living in or around Boston during the 2003 and 2004 was assaulted with Sox news on a daily basis.
You simply could not live in that city without reading about the team in the paper, hearing about their ups and downs on TV, or encountering coworkers obsessed with each Manny at-bat and Pedro or Schilling outing.
Apparently, the problems with the movie were lost on the majority of the viewing public that wasn't very concerned with the minute details of Sox fandom.
All of this for a movie that would have been forgotten had the Sox not taken home the 2004 World Series.
Suggested Alternative: Still We Believe: The Boston Red Sox Movie (2004)
Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby took home the highest prize at the 2005 Academy Awards, despite going up against two of the greatest biopics ever made (Ray and The Aviator), a classic and underrated fantasy for all ages (Finding Neverland), and, well, that movie about wine (Sideways).
Was Million Dollar Baby really the best picture?
A good movie for sure. Maybe even great. But really, best picture? In that field?
Suggested Alternative: This random girl fight video I found on YouTube.
Unapologetically in-your-face Yankees fan Billy Crystal directed this HBO made-for-TV-movie that told the story of Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle’s legendary pursuit of Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record in 1961.
The result is as expected: Crystal painted a fawning and boring picture of two of his childhood heroes in a movie that provides no more information about the famous 1961 season than the Yankees-saturated media had already given the viewing public.
The most frustrating part of 61* is Crystal’s vision of the legendary carouser and boozehound Mantle (played on Thomas Jane).
Despite spending substantial time detailing Mantle’s teammates' efforts to keep him sober and healthy, Crystal is without a doubt stuck believing that Mantle was a tragic figure who would have been the greatest player of all time had he not been afflicted with various maladies (damn that Yankee Stadium sprinkler head!).
This vision of his hero becomes apparent when Mantle’s failure to keep pace with Maris is attributed to an infection in his hip performed with a tainted needle. What Crystal fails to mention is that the shot Mantle received was a combination of steroids and amphetamines.
According to 61*, Mickey was just a good ol’ boy from Oklahoma who couldn’t help himself when it came to vices, enjoyed having a good time, and would have eclipsed Ruth if it wasn’t for all of these nagging injuries.
Unfortunately for Crystal and his homage to his boyhood heroes, this is flatly incorrect. Mantle himself played an enormous role in his own downfall, both in 1961 and throughout his career.
Suggested Alternative: The Pride of the Yankees (1942)
There's a reason none of the actors in Seabiscuit garnered any Oscar nods. It's because this excruciatingly long movie about a scrappy underdog racehorse that overcomes its shortcomings to lift the nation's spirits didn't have many powerful performances.
And all the actors played second fiddle to the film's true star: the horse.
Tobey Maguire has never been all that impressive, peaking in the kitschy Spider-Man movies, but struggling to play serious dramatic (non-fantasy or sci-fi) roles.
Chris Cooper's performance as the wise outsider trainer had its bright moments, but mostly he just felt like a creepy horse whisperer.
As for Jeff Bridges, well, the movie would have been substantially more interesting had he assumed the role of The Dude and stopped everyone from getting all worked up over a flippin' horse.
Suggested Alternative: Horse Falls & Mishaps #1 (more YouTube fun)
For as much praise as Brian's Song receives for its groundbreaking presentation of a friendship between two men - one black (NFL Hall of Famer and career Chicago Bear Gale Sayers) and one white (Sayers' teammate Brian Piccolo) - it should garner just as much criticism for how terribly melodramatic and sentimental the entire movie is from start to finish as it tells the story of Piccolo's battle with testicular cancer.
Maybe the sentimentality was to be expected considering Brian's Song was originally an ABC made-for-TV movie in 1971.
But it turns a movie that is little more than an hour long into what feels like a five-hour marathon of sadness from which you may never extract yourself...what one critic called "made-for-TV eyewash."
This selection is sure to horrify millions of youth soccer advocates around the globe.
But my gripe is not with the subject matter of Bend It Like Beckham. I'm the proud father of a nearly 10-month old daughter who I am sure to dote over for years to come, doubtless attending hundreds of sporting events or performances, whether she plays soccer, the piano or something else.
My problem with the film revolves around three things: one creepy story line, the unrealistic soccer action sequences, and the crappy after-school special style production value that permeates the film.
But seriously, why don't more people make an issue out of the love triangle involving a soccer coach and two of his players, who just happen to be high schoolers?
Yes, Jess (Parminder Nagra) and Jules (Keira Knightley) are supposedly 18, but wouldn't something like this turn into a headline-making scandal for coach Joe (the emotionless Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who is also quite the weird clapper) if it actually happened?
Seems to me that, even though he hasn't yet broken any laws, Joe is on the fast track to registering as a sex offender.
Moreover, Bend It Like Beckham feels like it came out of the same production house as Degrassi Junior High. Cheesy, fast-paced montages rule the day, and the soccer scenes involving the main characters are brutally slow-paced, making the "beautiful game" seem like a game of shuffle board in a retirement community.
The scenes are just not realistic at all, and Knightley looks like a fish out of water trying to play the game.
Becks deserved better.
Suggested Alternative: Ladybugs (1992), because at least Rodney Dangerfield's good for a few laughs.
Cameron Crowe is typically can’t-miss for me. His 2000 film Almost Famous is my favorite movie. His recent work on the documentary Pearl Jam Twenty, and his early films like Fast Times (as a writer only), Say Anything..., and Singles all rank up there and call to mind particular moments in my life.
Hell, even Jerry Maguire reminds me of the fall of 1996. A senior in high school living in my parents’ basement, listening to lots of Dave Matthews Band (tough times, I know), and counting down the days until I left for college, I vividly recall seeing the trailer, and the movie had me at hello.
Fancying myself a romantic, and apparently not noticing Renee Zellweger’s strange and disquieting penchant for squinting, I couldn’t wait until it was released, saw in it the theater, and eventually bought both the DVD and the Bruce Springsteen Greatest Hits album with “Secret Garden,” a song featured in the movie.
It wasn’t until years later that I began to appreciate Jerry Maguire’s shortcomings, especially as a sports film.
Crowe tends to paint in broad strokes in his films, trying to mold characters into particular roles, symbols, or images, but it falls flat in the context of professional sports, where the characters are already larger than life. Jerry Maguire is so full of easy characterizations that the characters morph into caricatures of themselves.
Take, for example, Cuba Gooding Jr.’s Oscar-winning performance as Rod Tidwell, the eccentric yet underperforming wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals. Tidwell wasn’t just a prima donna athlete. No, he had to be Deion Sanders, Michael Irvin and Allen Iverson all rolled up into one.
Tom Cruise’s portrayal of Mr. Maguire is, well, it’s Tom Cruise. That is to say it’s overacted, overwrought and overrated.
Not to mention, the crazy look in Maguire’s eyes when he flips out at the beginning of the movie doesn’t seem so far-fetched having seen Cruise’s 2006 performance on Oprah (and knowing about Cruise’s devotion to Scientology and creepy marriage to Katie Holmes).
Did I mention I’m not a fan of Tom Cruise? I apologize if I didn’t.
Oh yeah, and not only is Maguire’s love interest Dorothy Boyd (played by Renee Zellweger) a single mom, she lives with her divorced sister who runs a divorced women’s support group.
Wait, remind me again: does Dorothy have any man issues?
Jerry Maguire is a romantic comedy masquerading as a sports movie. Maguire and Dorothy’s romance and Maguire’s relationship with her son drive the movie, and Crowe’s picture of the word of sports agents was hardly eye-opening, given the movie was released long after the squeaky-clean shine had worn off sports, both amateur and pro.
There is minimal on-field action, and the little bit there is revolves around Tidwell’s obnoxious and attention-seeking touchdown celebration that nearly gives his wife a heart attack.
In the end, there is simply no meat to Jerry Maguire. Its characters are boring and generic, and it's a predictable love story with little focus on sports. Despite its shortcomings, the firm garners stellar ratings from both critics and the rest of us, and that's why its the most overrated sports movie ever.