"Resurrecting the Champ" DVD Review
May 02, 2008 by Zach Demeter
Somewhere off in a Fox marketing meeting, management met to decide how to best advertise their upcoming 2007 film, Resurrecting the Champ. One employee spoke up, ďitís a Samuel L. Jackson and Josh Hartnett vehicleÖhow hard can this be to promote and get a mess of ticket sales?Ē The board agreed and the film was released with so little fanfare that it became one of the quietest Samuel L. Jackson releases Iíve seen in my life. Not only was the film a complete box office disappointment, limping away from theaters with under $3.2 million worldwide, but it took nearly a year for it to appear on DVD, also something you donít see too often for theatrical-to-DVD time framesÖespecially considering failures usually race to DVD so fast youíd think it was a DTV.
Resurrecting the Champ is based off of a true story about a writer who wants so badly to succeed that he ends up falling on his face after running the story of his life. Erik Kernan (Josh Hartnett) happens upon Champ (Samuel L. Jackson) in the alley one night after covering a boxing match. Champ is the victim of a violent crime by a few senseless teenagers and Kernan helps him out. After learning his name and giving him some money, Kernan goes on his way and doesnít give the old man a second thought until a magazine publishing opportunity comes around. After all of his article ideas are shot down, he stumbles upon the name that Champ had given him a few nights before and soon Kernan is on his way to interviewing one of the greatest legends in boxingÖor so he thought.
Obviously the scenario I pitched in the opening paragraph is fictional, but I canít believe that this film didnít get some stronger marketing when it was released. Iíd never heard of this film until it was announced for DVD release in February, which later got pushed back several months before its eventual April release. Granted, Iíll start off by saying that the film is far from remarkable, but how it got so little press is simply ridiculous to me; itís far from mediocre and the performances are strong enough that Iíd think that a little bit more effort would have been put into the release of the film.
Despite the film being wholly transparent at times and sometimes feeling like itís carrying on a bit too long, it wasnít an altogether unpleasant experience. The characters in the film had their flaws, but I felt that Hartnett really brought some nice humanity to the role of Erik Kernan and Samuel L. Jackson as Champ was one of the most entertaining aspects of the film to me. While his persona takes a bit getting used to, the eventual revelation at the end of the movie unfolds in a few fantastic scenes and Jacksonís final scene as Champ evokes a certain level of emotion that the rest of the film pales in comparison to.
The thing about Resurrecting the Champ that made it a weak film was its run time; while it is based on a true story, they always take some liberties so tightening up the story a bit would have been nice. Showing less of Kernanís Showtime adventure would have gotten us back to the newspaper and lawsuit at the end of the film faster and kept it a tighter pace. Aside from that the film felt fine and I wouldnít have traded in any of the Kernan/Champ sequences for anythingóthey all really helped flesh out their characters more than anything else in the film.
The supporting cast of the film, consisting of Kernanís wife Joyce (Kathyrn Morris) and the newspaper chief Ralph Metz (Alan Alda) rounded out the solid leading roles and really complement Kernan quite well. Metz plays a kind of father figure to Kernan, even if Kernan doesnít quite respect him as much as he should (kind of like his own father) and Morris fills the void that Kernanís character needs towards the end of the film, but aside from that she seems completely superfluous.
One thing that really annoyed me about the film was not only did they use a generic premise with Kernan and his wife being separated and it stressing Kernan to no end, but when asked about why they were separated, Kernan merely replied ďI wish I knewĒ and we never hear anything else about it in the film. I donít really mind if they use the separation angle to help create tension in the story, but why they never explain it is a complete mystery to me.
But donít let all of my complaining deter you from seeing the film. Itís true that itís far from superb, but it certainly deserved more limelight than it received. I may just be a sucker for movies based on true stories, but there is a certain amount of simultaneous happiness and sorrow you can cleave from this film that really makes it worth watching for that warm and fuzzy feeling alone. Seeing and hearing about Champís life is a rather moving story and something that really moves you when you start thinking about the life he must have had.
Overall Resurrecting the Champ has its flaws but itís worth seeing for the performances and story alone. It follows a bit of a predictable path and feels a bit long in runtime department, but itís still worth seeing at least once. Iím stuck between giving this film a Recommended or a simple Rental rating, something I donít often come upon; for fans of Hartnett or Jackson it comes Recommended and they will likely want to pick it up for their roles alone, but those uneasy about either of them may just want to Rent It.
Resurrecting the Champ arrives on DVD in a standard DVD amaray case without any insert or slipcover. Menus are static and easy to navigate and the video and audio transfers for the film are strong and solid. Video remains free of grain and compression for the majority of the film, although a bit of grain crops up in the films darker scenes. Audio is mostly focused in the front channels aside from some rear channel play during the fights that Kernan covers in the film. The films score rarely pops its head out except for the emotional scenes, when a sorrowful theme plays that is honestly indistinguishable from any other melodramatic music in these type of films. Oddly enough the covers back lists the film as being rated PG, which I was shocked to discover after hearing some of the language in the film; I later found out that this is apparently a misprint as the film is actually rated PG-13, so make note of that, as there is a fair bit of violence and language that isnít suitable for the ears of a PG-movie viewer.
Moving onto the extras we have a full length commentary by director Rod Lurie which is informative and full of neat tidbits about the film, but ultimately it seems like heís merely recording the commentary because heís being paid to. He shows little interest in really talking about his emotional investment into the film, which is a bit strange and makes for a rather dry commentary for the most part. If you pick up or rent this DVD, this is actually one commentary Iíd avoidónormally Iím happy they at least include them, but Lurie just doesnít pack enough of interest here to listen to.
The rest of the extras here are rather cut and dry and not of much interest. A quick featurette for the film runs a scant 4:23 and a series of cast and crew interviews, which sound long and informative, are actually only twenty-five second clips of dialogue from some of the cast and crew. Director Rod Lurie has four brief bits; Hartnett has two, while Jackson, Morris and Alda all receive one each. The Boxing/Stunt Coordinator receives two and all total the eleven featurettes run 6:25. Not much at all.
A few trailers round out the rest of the extras, but that wraps up this DVD release. Itís disappointing that it took so long for it to arrive on DVD as I honestly think if it had had more promotion then the general public would have turned their heads toward it a bit more. The film has its flaws, but itís ultimately an enjoyable piece and an interesting look into the world of boxing and journalism and what happens when you believe someone a little too much. The film received a fairly positive critical reception, so Iím even more baffled by the final outcome of this film. Unfortunately the DVD itself is rather disappointing with the extras and the commentary simply isnít worth listening to, so this one is worth a Rental only.
Resurrecting the Champ is now available on DVD.