Foxx Jumps with the Sharks
Oliver Stone has been behind some of the biggest movies in the history of cinema "Platoon", "Wall Street" and "JFK" are just a few of his epic movies. But you do question whether it was right to try and make a big movie about American Football as with "Any Given Sunday" there is something simply wrong. And that something is that at 150 minutes "Any Given Sunday" is long and it's long because it tries to cram too much in and becomes unfocussed. Basically think of just about any sporting cliche and it appears in "Any Given Sunday" in one form or another from the old fashioned coach battling a money motivated new owner through to the old player who is trying to recover from injury to have one last hurrah whilst his replacement is getting to big for his boots, I could go on because this movie has it and probably more. And whilst crowded with cliche sporting stories there is also an element of padding, artistic shots of the game, of the cheer leaders and so on which end up swelling the minutes rather than adding depth. "Any Given Sunday" is not a bad movie, in fact it is entertaining but compared to other Oliver Stone movies it is just about average.
With 4 straight defeats in a row and his No. 1 Quarterback Cap Rooney (Dennis Quaid - Wyatt Earp) out of the game with a back injury things are looking bad for Miami Sharks coach Tony D'Amato (Al Pacino - The Devil's Advocate) as he is forced to put in 3rd string QB Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx - The Truth About Cats & Dogs). To make matters worse Tony's rigid and old fashioned style of coaching and running plays is not going down well with his team and new owner Christina Pagniacci (Cameron Diaz - My Best Friend's Wedding) who having inherited the team from her father seems only focused on winning at any cost. But that all changes when Willie breathes life into the team and turns a losing streak into a winning streak but having been on the benches and ignored for too long Willie soon starts getting too big for his boots and puts Tony in an awkward situation when he upsets the team, especially with Cap desperate to be back from injury for the play-offs.
So the storyline to "Any Given Sunday" focuses on a few games in the season of the Miami Sharks as the play-offs draw close and in those few games we have every sports cliche you can imagine. We have the under pressure coach whose old ways of doing things isn't suiting a new age of American Football, you have the owner who is only interested in the profit and so it goes on. All of these cliches which include the old Quarterback trying to recover from injury in time for the play offs as well as the new Quarterback getting to big for his boots basically combine to make the story. Now that isn't a bad thing because it provides a bit of variety rather than just being say an under dog story but it does mean that "Any Given Sunday" ends up being unfocused. We go from one sporting cliche to the next and back again without one being the main focus.
What also doesn't help and for me is a major reason why "Any Given Sunday" ends up at whopping 150 minutes is that Oliver Stone tries to capture the atmosphere and razzmatazz of the game. We get some stunning action as we get close ups of the game but then we get close ups of the cheerleaders and then that is padded out even more by the team doctor who spends more time flirting with the attractive women than doing his job. There are also numerous artsy style shots, silhouettes of the cheerleaders dancing on a rainy night, giant shadows of the game seeming projected on the mist. Oh it's all very nice but it adds little to the actual story as does the whole series of scenes which sees hot shot new Quarterback shooting an MTV style music video. Maybe for those who are into the sport will enjoy Stone's attempts to capture the atmosphere but for those who are not avid fans it feels a bit indulgent.
The annoying thing is that cut out a few of the cliche sports stories and knock out some of the atmosphere building scenes and "Any Given Sunday" would have ended up not only a better paced movie but one which would have been closer to the 2 hour mark. And that is another of the issues as whilst there is a lot going on in "Any Given Sunday" the pacing ends off because of it going from one sporting cliche to the next and often ending up in the bar with Coach Tony drowning his sorrows and chatting up his regular hooker.
A knock on effect of there being so much going on in "Any Given Sunday" is that an impressively assembled cast ends up being underused. The likes of LL Cool J, Matthew Modine, James Woods, Aaron Eckhart and Jim Brown end up in supporting roles and not really doing much whilst Cameron Diaz as new team owner Christina Pagniacci gets a little more to do and is memorable for the scene where she walks into the locker room and congratulates a naked player with a straight face. This means that Al Pacino, Jamie Foxx and Dennis Quaid take the majority of the screen time and to be honest they do a decent enough job in their different characters with Foxx really excelling as the hot shot young Quarterback. But none of these performances are amazing and to be honest in each actor's portfolio of work are quite forgettable.
What this all boils down to is that "Any Given Sunday" ends up being an average movie by trying to do too much. It ends up unfocused as there are several different sporting cliches going and the knock on effect of this is that an impressive cast ends up underused. And it also doesn't help that in trying to capture the atmosphere of the game there are various elements and artsy shots which only end up feeling like padding. Don't get me wrong as "Any Given Sunday" isn't a bad movie, and it is entertaining even for those who are not avid fans of American Football but at 150 minutes it is too long and honestly a little messy.