'Big George Foreman' Review
April 27, 2023
Two weeks ago, I experienced one of the clearest moments of opportunity cost in my life. After experiencing a blizzard that dumped nearly a foot of snow only a week earlier, it was now 80o (that drastic shift should be cause for alarm, but I was just happy to see green grass). The golf courses were open, the bike lanes and soccer fields were cleared, and people were out playing basketball at the nearby park. Everything was laid out right in front of me for an eventful afternoon basking in the sun.
But instead of doing any of those fun recreational activities like a sensible person, I decided to sit indoors and watch a movie. I walked into the theater to see the words “BIG GEORGE FOREMAN” plastered all over the screen, along with the hilariously overlong subtitle: The Miraculous Story of the Once and Future Heavyweight Champion of the World (I wonder if the person who came up with that title is the same person responsible for the initial title for Birds of Prey?). I already felt like a chump the moment I sat down in that darkened room, a feeling that was exponentially increased with each passing minute having to endure this weightless and creatively bankrupt biopic.
For all of you that only know the name George Foreman from the grill brand, you’ll be surprised to know that the man first rose to prominence as a boxing icon, only ever bested once by none other than Muhammad Ali. Foreman (played by Kei as a boy and Khris Davis as a man) was a poor and uneducated child in 1960s Texas, which led to him joining the Job Corps with its promises of three meals a day and training for skilled labor. One of the managers (Forest Whitaker) saw boxing as an outlet for Foreman’s pent-up rage. Success came quickly after that, and so did all the other struggles that come with being famous.
The term “leave your brain at the door” has often been used to describe horror movies and other blockbusters that are just trying to make a quick buck on spectacle and entertainment. Big George Foreman doesn’t require, expect, or want any of its audience members to be capable of critical thinking. Frank Baldwin and director George Tillman Jr. are incapable of placing any variables into their estate-approved script, sticking so closely to the tired clichés within the biopic formula that it sometimes borders on self-parody. Every choice and personality trait for Foreman is spelled out like it was competing at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Things move at a lightning-fast pace as we cover the entirety of the Wikipedia page. George goes from learning about boxing to an Olympic gold medalist within about ten minutes. He fathers all six of his children and has multiple affairs off-screen, giving off the impression that those things really don’t matter to a person. George says that his sister Mary “always saw the best in him” and that he loved her devoutly. She maybe has four lines of dialogue in the two proceeding hours. That same treatment applies to Desmond (John Magaro), who becomes George’s best friend at the Job Corps and agrees to be his manager. He puts George’s money in “rock solid stocks” (foreshadowing!) and is barely mentioned until after the well has dried up.
It also doesn’t help that I’ve experienced more intense boxing fights on Wii Sports than in this movie. Tillman Jr. shoots the action cheap and flat, with the announcers never ceasing to over-explain what just happened. There is the presence of blood, sweat, and tears, but none of it comes off the screen. Neither does any of the emotion of Davis’ titular performance, with his blank stares and line deliveries leaving nothing on the table.
The biopic genre may be one of my favorites, but that doesn’t mean I’m blind to see that many of them just copy each other. Big George Foreman doesn’t even have enough competency to properly cheat off its predecessors. Its subject matter may be about a heavyweight champion, but this story doesn’t even deserve to fight for scraps on the street.