Movie Review

Ali

MPAA Rating: R for some language and brief violence

Reviewed by: Gerald Davis
CONTRIBUTOR

Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Drama
Length:
2 hr. 37 min.
Year of Release:
2001
USA Release:
December 25, 2001
Will Smith as Muhammad Ali in “Ali”
Featuring: Will Smith, Giancarlo Esposito, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith, Jon Voight
Director: Michael Mann
Producer: James Lassiter, Jon Peters, A Kitman Ho, Michael Mann, Paul Ardaji
Distributor: Columbia Pictures

Will Smith in “Ali”.As with virtually anything out of Hollywood, “Ali” does not especially cater to Christian sensibilities. After all, “Ali” presents a reverent depiction of a controversial American who rejected Christianity and rejected what Americans once considered a patriotic duty to join the military.

Ali, the man, indeed achieved legendary, heroic status because he got us to understand his actions, whether we entirely agreed or not. “Ali” the movie does the same thing. We come to understand the visceral wisdom of Ali’s anti-Vietnam War stance: “The Viet Cong never called me nigger.” We realize the heroism of someone putting all on the line for principle. We understand, as did the U.S. Supreme Court, that all religions have the same right to Conscientious Objector status.

To fully reveal the man beneath the loud-mouthed swagger, the 2½ hour movie opens with a montage firmly placing Ali in the context of the racially charged mid-1960s. In so doing, “Ali” places the audience into the shoes of black Americans who were then making initial steps toward cultural self-determination from a past of denigration and subjugation.

Ali, along with many among us, made some missteps during this time, chief among them the infatuation with the Nation of Islam, leaping from the lie that Jesus was blond and blue-eyed to the lie that the white man is the Devil. The audience sees his subsequent disillusionment with the Nation’s falsity and manipulation.

As a black American who remembers those times vividly, I was deeply gratified that “Ali” works on the level of making Ali a metaphor for us all.

And it works on the level of being a fantastic fight film, richly rewarding moviegoers seeking true-to-life realism. Repeatedly, scenes flash by that seem exact re-creations of familiar photos and film. For the fight fan, the pugilistic depictions are as stunning in their accuracy as those in the “Rocky” series were embarrassing in their movieish choreography.

This is “relatively” clean for an R-rated movie. The rating comes for its boxing violence and for perhaps a handful of profanities (Kids-in-Mind reports 5 F-words, 5 religious profanities or exclamations, and other instances of crude language). There are some romantic and sexual scenes, one with simulated sexual motion.

As for acting, there can be no exaggeration of Will Smith’s triumph in this role. Just as he beefed up from 185 pounds to 220, he has now developed from being a scrawny little clown as “Fresh Prince” to a true acting heavyweight as Muhammad Ali. Those of us familiar with Ali don’t have to sit there pretending Will Smith is Ali, even though his face doesn’t resemble the champ’s at all. Will Smith IS Ali.


Viewer Comments
Positive—By the very definition of the man, the movie Ali will not appeal to the Christian viewer merely on promoting the same gospel. There are however many lessons to be learned and many triumphs to be highlighted in this 2 and ½ hour movie. Ali does forge ahead in its continual reference to religion, its promotion of Ali’s personal religious rights and it does not particularly target the Christian faith as a point of hatred. Understanding our culture is a part of our ability to reach others with the gospel of Christ. This movie allows the average Christian to see into the mindset of a young African-American Muslim. Understanding where a person is coming from allows for a smoother transportation to the truth. From a pure objectionable sense, Ali does have some scenes which give way to sexual advances, however, it does not show full or frontal nudity in any scene. Questionable language finds its way in and out of the movie at points but not as a focal point, more as a way to set up the scenes. My overall impression of Ali the movie was a positive one. I would recommend this movie to adults interested in either sports or learning the mindset of this time period.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 5]
—Tally Wilgis, age 23
PositiveWill Smith was an excellent choice because he portrayed the charisma of the famous boxer well. The boxing sequences were extremely well done. The story, which only covers ten years in the champ’s life, needed some work. The women characters are poorly drawn. Ali is shown meeting his wives, having arguments with them, then they are gone, and little is divulged about their personalities. Jon Voight is great as Howard Cosell, who’s seems to be the only character who’s not afraid to be truthful with the champ. Jamie Foxx provides some comic relief as Bundini, one of Ali’s cornermen. This film is okay, but I would recommend more that audiences read biographies about the man as well.
My Ratings: [Average / 2½]
—Hillari Hunter, age 40
Positive—Ali is a good movie. As a christian I especially appreciated the fact that the Muslim religion was not glorified. Will Smith did a great acting job. I would not recommend children under the age of fifteen because of the one scene which simulated sex, however that seen is similar to ones shown on primetime TV and cable.
My Ratings: [Average / 4½]
—Vivian, age 32
I saw this movie on its opening night, but the reactions following the evening’s anticipation were about evenly split. A friend of mine, an avid boxing fan, enjoyed the movie… my sister fell asleep halfway through. The movie had some parts that dragged unnecessarily, but an interested viewer could keep the story in mind. There are graphic boxing scenes and a couple of assassinations. Some more offence may be found in Ali’s behavior with his wife-to-be. Ultimately, the athlete’s life story as told by the movie supports the fact that empty religion can only echo our sinful nature; only Jesus can truly satisfy.
My Ratings: [Average / 3½]
—Nnenna Agim, age 22
Movie Critics
…5 F-words… 5 religious profanities or exclamations…
—Kids-in-Mind
…One graphic sex scene is shown with Ali and his future wife, although no nudity is revealed…
—Preview Family Movie and TV Review
…ALI is a tedious, boring, poorly-edited example of bad filmmaking. Will Smith is okay as Muhammed Ali, but he does not have the charisma the real Ali had…
—Dr. Ted Baehr, Movieguide