Stay Tuned
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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

"We Are Marshall": Too Hollywood For Hollywood

I have to admit that when I went to see “We Are Marshall” on opening day, my expectations weren’t too high. After all, most of the reviews I’d read had told me it wasn’t going to be very good. Just that morning, Joel Siegel of “Good Morning America” said that if you were looking for a good sports movie, after this one, you’d still be looking.

The dialogue was clichéd, they said. Matthew McConaughey was annoying, they said. This just wasn’t a good movie, they said.

So after the screen went dark and the audience mustered up a feeble “We Are Marshall” chant, I have to say I was relieved that for the most part, the critics were wrong.

I thought Matthew McConaughey’s performance was outstanding and the dialogue never came off as clichéd to my ears. I had to wonder what movie the critics were watching.

And that’s when it dawned on me. They just didn’t get it.

In fact, I think the story is too Hollywood for Hollywood.

What we in the Tri-State know to be true and honest, critics see as contrived. In order to make the critics happy, Jamie Linden and company would have had to embellish the story, but they chose not to. And they should be applauded for not falling into that trap.

However, that commitment does cause the movie to fall into another trap—underdeveloped characters. Thanks to an enterprising friend (who shall remain nameless), I was able to read the original screenplay earlier this year. I was very concerned about the character of Annie, who came off as a walking cliché. One scene in particular actually made me say out loud, “Are you kidding me?” Thankfully, Linden and company decided to stick closer to actual events. But in doing so, the composite characters of Annie and Paul were underdeveloped. In the version I read, both Annie and Paul attended the Xavier game, which gave both their stories more closure. It also added an extra sense of drama as Paul struggled with whether or not to root for the team. I think leaving these scenes in—clichéd or not—would have helped.

Unfortunately, though, that wasn’t the only lack of drama, as several sequences were not as powerful as they could’ve been. Most of them were due to choppy editing, but some were due to the woefully miscast January Jones, who sucked the emotion out of every scene she was in. And the more I think about it, the more I dislike the ending sequence (Jones helped ruin that too.).

But before you send the MUPD to my house to take my degrees away, let me say that none of the movie’s shortcomings could keep me from saying it was a good movie, because it was an emotional, surprising funny and inspiring roller coaster ride.

But most importantly, it was real.

There are critics out there who are getting it—Gene Shalit and Richard Roeper among them. I’m just sorry their reviews didn’t come out in time to save the opening box office numbers.

But don’t worry. Thanks to the magic of DVD (which one website estimates for release in April), there’ll be plenty of time for people all over the world to get it.

However, I’m afraid the story will always be too Hollywood for Hollywood…