Big George Foreman (2023) Movie Review: George Foreman is just as fascinating as he is baffling. He’s the Olympic Gold Medalist who took on Muhammad Ali in The Rumble in the Jungle, the heavyweight great who retired early to become a preacher and then returned to boxing to become the oldest World Champion in history. Even with those accolades, there are people who’d be forgiven for thinking that a film named Big George Foreman might be more akin to something like The Brave Little Toaster than a sports biopic. But that’s why this is such an important story to tell. There’s so much to the man beyond the lean, mean fat grilling machine that should be spoken about. Unfortunately, it might be a bit more than this film is able to accommodate.

The biopic is a style of film that naturally has problems that don’t come quite as regularly for other dramatic formats. In telling the story of a real person’s life, inevitably, there are parts that are difficult to slot in. The problem with Big George Foreman is that there are so many stories to tell that it moves with the expediency of a Wikipedia page and similarly loses some of the heart of the events as a result of it. There could have been quite a few self-contained films based on what Foreman had been through at different points. He has done so much, but because it’s all condensed to one with a two-hour runtime, what we get is essentially the headlines and little else.

It isn’t that there’s a lack of care evident, Foreman himself even serves as an executive producer. Director George Tillman Jr. is no stranger to adapting the story of a real person, having previously made the Biggie Smalls biopic Notorious as well as Men of Honor, a drama inspired by the life of the first African American master diver in the US Navy Seals. Big George Foreman just may have been too ambitious in what it tries to cover.

We meet Foreman as a poor child who’s the butt of all the jokes at his school. His family can’t afford to feed him properly or to keep him in serviceable clothes. So his bullies tease him by suggesting his name should be changed to “George Poorman” instead. This is the first in a long line of traumatic events that are implied to have developed into anger issues that were instrumental in him becoming a boxer later on.

This is where the film shows some promise, the character arc of Foreman, who starts as a shy child and then turns into an aggressive adult. What’s more fascinating is that he needs boxing as a means of introducing some discipline into his life. Furthermore, it gets more intriguing when he finds God at a point in his life when he needs to and makes the decision to walk away from the sport in favor of becoming a preacher. The problem is that the story beats that deliver us to these conclusions aren’t allowed the space necessary for us to feel their importance.

An example includes Foreman’s first Olympics in 1968. He caused controversy in some sections of the black community by holding up the USA flag after having won a gold medal, just days after what has since become an iconic moment in the civil rights movement. Sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who had won gold and bronze, respectively, had declined the flag in favor of raising their fists on the Men’s 200-meter podium, something Smith had later said was not a black power salute per se but a human rights salute.

Some saw Foreman’s endorsement of the USA flag as an endorsement of an institutionally racist country. Still, it’s depicted in Big George Foreman as something he hadn’t considered at the time and then never did since. This could have been an opportunity to tell the story of a very important time in American socio-political history and to gain some insight through a prominent figure. Instead, again just like a Wikipedia page, it only does enough to signpost us to a topic that we can go and do our own research on.

Just as the story is too big for a single film to contain, the same can be said for the personalities of George Foreman and Muhammad Ali. Khris Davis and Sullivan Jones are both terrific actors, and their performances are as good as the film will allow. However, the screenplay and the direction just aren’t sizeable enough to portray the people it’s supposed to. Of course, we all know the magnitude of Muhammad Ali’s real-life character. Still, during a later segment of the film, there’s a joke where George Foreman makes light of the fact he’s the face of a grill people use to get lean despite his physique has developed into something like the Michelin Man. That’s the achievement of a man with far more charisma than Big George Foreman allows him to show.

Big George Foreman is a film that doesn’t quite live up to the story it tries to tell. If the aim of it is to provide a sort of whistlestop tour of interesting topics from Foreman’s life, then it works to a point. The problem is that it skims across so much that, even after watching it, it’s still difficult to decipher which parts are the most important.

Also Read: Air (2023): Movie Review – A Biopic That Gives A Mainstream Legacy To Some Lesser-Known Names

Big George Foreman (2023) Links: IMDb
Big George Foreman (2023) Cast: Khris Davis, Jasmine Mathews, Sullivan Jones
Where to watch Big George Foreman

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