Jonathan Hart’s review:
The best way to see this film is in the theaters, and I made it my Christmas pick of 2001. The boxing scenes, I thought, were the highlight of the movie (which is why you need to see it in the theaters, in all it's giant screened, Dolby-sounded glory) but let's not kid ourselves - Will Smith did an awesome job as Muhammad Ali.
It's a damn near impossible task to portray someone that famous, that well recognised. Muhammad Ali and Pele are the two people in the world that everybody, bar none, knows. I think Michael Jordan comes damn close, but you could go to the most remote village in any corner of the globe that you care to visit, and the people there *will* know who Ali is. So imagine how hard it must be to portray a person that everyone else in the world already has their own view toward?
Because of that, Smith doesn't quite pull it off. I think he comes as close as it is humanly possible to be, but I just couldn't shake the feeling, throughout the entire movie, that I was watching Will Smith playing Muhammad Ali, instead of watching Ali himself.
Now that being said, there's two actors who did manage to completely lose themselves in their characters. That's Jamie Foxx as Bundini Brown and Mario Van Peebles as Malcolm X. Unfortunately, Van Peebles' participation in the movie comes to an end in the first hour (I don't think that's a spoiler) and Bundini (not Foxx) is best in small doses. But that's his personality, and a testament to Foxx's ability. This is the movie that announced to the world Jamie Foxx is more than some dude from In Living Color. Turns out, he's a damn good actor, too.