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'Sunday' Fumbles
By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 24, 1999

   


    'Any Given Sunday' Al Pacino (right) plays a harried football coach in "Any Given Sunday." (Warner Bros.)
Only Oliver Stone could go over the top in a movie about football.

For its first 90 minutes, "Any Given Sunday," the writer-director's smell-the-turf drama is an exhilarating, torqued-up, smash-mouth experience.

We get fast-moving montages of thudding bodies and crumpled victims, heavy breathing inside helmets, the deafening roar of the crowd, spectacular ball spirals, and such stadium-rocking music as "Rock and Roll Part II," a k a the 'Hey' song.

And that's ex-Giants player Lawrence Taylor and running back Jim Brown, suiting up for dramatic duty. Look also for Irving Fryar, Terrell Owens, Ricky Watters, Warren Moon and Jamie Williams. And check out Y.A. Tittle, Dick Butkus, Bob Sinclair and Johnny Unitas – all of whom play head coaches.

And to add Hollywood pizazz to the pigskin parade, we've got Al Pacino playing Tony D'Amato, aging coach of the story's fictional Miami Sharks, with Cameron Diaz sitting sleekly in the glass box as Sharks owner Christina Pagniacci.

Here's the story: Dennis Quaid plays Jack "Cap" Rooney, an aging quarterback who faces the prospect of hasty retirement when a couple of opposing players blitz him into the operating room. A moment later, down goes the second string quarterback, too. Enter third-string backup QB, Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx), a goofball who barfs nervously before his first down.

But after a few games, he starts to improve. Before you can say "rap single," Willie's singing about himself on MTV, getting the girls, talking to those fast-talking sports jocks on ESPN and Fox Sports, and preparing for the playoffs. Cap and D'Amato watch this change with horror. But scheming owner Pagniacci figures this is the new way. And it's up to her, too, whether Cap and D'Amato return next season.

Holy timeout, Stone wants to make a movie about, uh, life. True to form, Stone whips out that megaphone, leaps on to his soapbox and blasts our brains with his unwavering speciality: conventional wisdom disguised as manically charged, cutting-edge consciousness.

A corny, but entertaining football saga turns into clock-eating commentary. And after one Pacino rallying speech at halftime, they all start to sound the same. They should have called this three-hour movie "Month of Sundays." Stone, who wrote this with Chicago playwright John Logan, rages on about the entertainment-uber-alles networks, the backroom maneuveurs between football owners and local politicians, the ego overdrive of bionic, coke-snorting football players, and the way that team doctors don't heal their players so much as patch up gladiators for the next bout.

It's about as deep as electronic white noise. Stay with the grunts, the destruction, the beatings, and the soaring glory of a great touchdown throw. But don't get preachy on me, Ollie, unless you're going to tell me something I don't know. Long, long before this movie ended, I was longing for that sound of blessed relief: the final gun.

ANY GIVEN SUNDAY (R, 162 minutes) – Contains nudity, obscenity and on-field violence, with absolutely no time for sex.


© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company


 

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"Any Given Sunday"
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