Bernard Hopkins is one of the boxers showcased in the documentary "Champs." Credit: Bert Marcus
'Champs' attempts to explain boxing through the eyes of three world champions. Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson and Bernard Hopkins each discuss their rise to the top of the boxing world. All three came from very poor neighborhoods and the story of each champion’s struggle out of that poor neighborhood is fascinating.
Written and Directed by Bert Marcus, the film paints boxing as a way to realize the American Dream. Several guests, including Mary J. Blige, 50 Cent, Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington, all talk about how hard boxers have to fight to escape poverty and how much fame they can get once they do. It is interesting that such a violent sport is the tool many use to escape the violent inner city life. The film intriguingly shows the ways the sport can both attract and prey upon disadvantaged communities.
The story of Tyson, who also produced the documentary, is easily the most interesting. He survived child abuse and trouble with the law to become one of the biggest athletes of the ‘90’s, before falling into financial trouble and declaring bankruptcy in 2003.
The film also describes the brutal cycle of boxing. The sport seems to chew up superstars and spit them out, something the film recognizes. There are no standardized health protocols in boxing and 90 percent of all boxers suffer some kind of brain injury during their careers. “The sweet science” might not have a bright future and the film spotlights that possibility.
The cast of "Intramural" helps mock the usual underdog sports movie cliches. Credit: Ryan Green
The tag line for "Intramural" — "the epic sports movie... for the guys who don't deserve one" — gives a fairly accurate representation of the film. It's an underdog sports story much like "Dodgeball" that makes fun of the cliched underdog story.
The film's protagonist, Caleb, played by Jake Lacy, feels the pressures of marriage, the upcoming LSAT and adult life creeping closer. Not quite ready for a full-time job, he decides to get his intramural football team back together for one last ride. That’s where the usual team of misfits story line takes over the film.
To its credit, "Intramural" knows its playing this story line out and uses Nick Kocher’s character, Grant, to poke fun. At one point in the team’s Rocky-esque training montage, Grant sarcastically writes “denouement” on the chalkboard behind him.
"Intramural" features several likable "SNL" cast members and all of them provide enjoyable comedic moments. Kate McKinnon plays Caleb’s horrible fiance, Jay Pharaoh plays an “eighth-year senior” who serves as a hilarious commentator for the intramural games and Beck Bennett plays the villain to Caleb’s hero as the captain of the rival Titans. The "SNL" family provides "Intramural" with a funny, new take on the sometimes tiring underdog sports story.