The Great White Hype

Directed by Reginald Hudlin

> > Nov 05 2012

The Great White Hype - Directed by Reginald Hudlin
By Kevin ScottAs satire, The Great White Hype is rather toothless and a bit dated, reflecting a time when flamboyant professional boxing promoter Don King ruled the sport with an iron (and bejewelled) fist. As comedy though, it has its share of good moments, even if they are mired in a screenplay that does its best to convince that more is going on than there is. At the outset, boxing is in serious financial trouble. Its top promoter, Reverend Fred Sultan (Samuel L. Jackson), is forced to once again sweet-talk his way out of paying heavyweight champ James "the Grim Reaper" Roper (Damon Wayans) the lucrative purse he's been promised from his most recent fight. Sultan deduces that audiences would pay to see Roper face a white fighter and ultimately enlists Terry Conklin (Peter Berg), a vapid musician who once beat Roper when they were amateurs. As the night of the bout approaches, people start to believe that Conklin could defeat Roper — a possibility enhanced by the champ's expanding waistline and the irrational confidence of the plucky challenger. This is one of Jackson's better roles, comfortably slipping into the oily skin of the charismatic yet vaguely sinister Reverend. He does well not to attempt a straight impersonation of the one-of-a-kind King, yet retains the same essence of a man that will lie through his smiling teeth, but absolve all his sins by telling you how much he loves you. The same can be said of Wayans, who sidesteps comparisons to Mike Tyson as someone who has surrounded himself with enough "yes men" that he is confident enough to indulge his vices rather than training. Berg nearly steals the film, however, with a deadpan performance that pleasingly combines arrogance with stupidity. A good running gag sees him being billed as "Irish" Terry Conklin, despite his pleas that he's not Irish, while constantly preaching on the plight of the homeless. Unfortunately, the movie, co-written by Bull Durham's Ron Shelton, has too much filler going on at its fringes. A side plot that involves Jeff Goldblum's hard-hitting filmmaker transforming into a budding rival promoter isn't only implausible it's idiotic. As a result, the fight can't arrive fast enough while bit players like Jon Lovitz and Jamie Foxx take the opportunity to score some laughs. There are no extras, though fans of subtitles may be excited.
(Fox)
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