When dealing with a life as well known as Ali's, there are moments that everyone expects to see. They want to see his first championship win, the reason he changed his name, his fight with the U.S. Army and any of his numerous other fights (Rumble in the Jungle). Mann has included these moments, but has produced so much padding and filler around them that it's easy to lose interest at times.
The opening of the film flashes between his childhood and first championship win. It's an interesting method that shows who he is both now and then. By the time this sequence is over, 30 minutes have passed. With this much time devoted to the opening, it's no mystery as to how the rest of the film will play out.
In choosing to look at the middle of Ali's career, Mann chose the most politically interesting time in his life. In doing so he also forces Malcolm X (Mario Van Peebles) into the picture, whose presence threatens to steal much of the focus from Ali (Will Smith). X may have been an important influence on Ali's life, but he could have been less of an onscreen presence.
That's not to say the movie doesn't do several things beautifully. Will Smith is mesmerizing in his performance of Ali. It's an amazing physical transformation that deserved the Oscar nomination it received and hints at Smith's potential. Likewise, Jon Voight as Howard Cosell is amazing. Last, but not least, Jamie Foxx again proves he has the dramatic chops to carry a film with his portrayal of Drew 'Bundini' Brown. Another perfect aspect of the film is the cinematography. There are many moments that are framed and filmed perfectly. This helps with the slowness of the film at times by engaging the viewer visually.
Video: As stated, the film looks beautiful. The Anamorphic print is presented in 2.35:1 ration that frames the film perfectly. There's a richness and saturation to the colors that looks great, but not overly bright or vivid. As far as quality, nothing bad can truly be said. There's a little edge enhancement visible at times, but the overall print quality is perfect with no flaws.
Audio: The audio is a mixed bag on this disc. The fight scenes are mixed wonderfully. They convey the power in the ring with thunderous punches that will give your sub a workout. The rest of the soundtrack is considerably tame. There's no use of Dolby Digital's processing power anywhere else in the film.
Extras: Normally I would say this disc has none. I don't consider trailers as extras. But, when one of those is the full trailer for Spider-Man (May 3, 2002) then I'll make an exception. Also included are trailers for Ali and Men in Black II. These are all in 5.1, so that's a plus. It's a real shame there is nothing included with the film, as you know the material had to be there.
Overall: This would definitely be a rent for me. The film looks and
plays beautifully, but I never really felt a personal connection or interest
to Ali through the length of the film. Those looking for a straight biography
would also be better looking elsewhere. Those looking for a sometimes slow,
but entertaining film should give it a chance. It's worth a single viewing based
on Smith and Voight's chameleon like performances alone.