(director/writer: Ouisie Shapiro; cinematographer: Rob Newman; editors: Andrew Morreale/Ryan Kelly; music: David Robidoux; cast: Joe Namath, Liev Schreiber (Narrator); Runtime: 86; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Joe Lavine/Keith Cossrow; HBO; 2012)
“A decent Sports biopic.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A well-produced HBO sports documentary on the talented Hall of Fame quarterback fromBeaver Falls, Pennsylvania, Joe Namath, who despite poor admission grades played championship quality football at the University of Alabama, in 1962-64 (winning the winning the National Championship in 1964), for legendary coach Bear Bryant, and benefited from the emergence of the new AFL’s efforts to challenge the established NFL by signing at the time the biggest football contract of over $400,000, that included a new Lincoln Continental Convertible, with the NY Jets and their new publicity savvy showbiz owner, MCA agent, Sonny Werblin.Dubbed by his teammates with the nickname Broadway Joe, the shy country boy quickly embraced city life and earned a rep as a playboy, a flamboyant dresser and a great gunslinger passer.
The documentary covers in great detail Namath’s most notable claim to legendary status when he guaranteed that the Jets would win Super Bowl III in 1969 and then leading his upstart American Football league team to a crushing victory over the NFL’s 17-point favored Baltimore Colts. This win showed that the new league had arrived and could play with the older established one.The film also tracks some sadder moments in Joe’s life, like his hurtful divorce from his much younger wife, his womanizing, the pain from football injuries and numerous surgeries, and his ongoing problem with alcohol. This fall from the flawless pedestal of an icon was witnessed by the entire country when he drunkenly asked ESPN’s cute sideline reporter Suzy Kolber in 2003 for a kiss while being interviewed during a widely seen televised Monday night broadcast. Kolber’s generous response was that Joe’s “A really good guy having a bad moment that happened to be captured on national television.”
We also get a chance to see interviews with football people, Joe’s hometown neighbors and with his close friends. The film shows home movies of Joe as a happy-go-lucky child growing up in Western Pennsylvania, who had black friends and kept out of trouble playing both baseball and football at a high level. That the dutiful Joe as a teenager turned down a $50,000 contract with baseball’s Chicago Cubs because mom wanted him to go to college. It was hard trying to watch the pained Joe try to find the words to tell how much he missed his steel mill worker dad, who after his divorce was separated from the family, and how much he respects his hard-working straight-laced mom who kept the large family together and spoiled him because he was the youngest.
It’s a decent sports biopic about someone who appears to be a good guy but with many personality flaws, who has gone to rehab after the 2003 incident and is now sober. The film paints a portrait of Joe as a small-town boy who made good beyond his wildest dreams and despite his fall from grace is still greatly admired by the public as a lovable son-of-a-gun who traveled in the fast lane and is still loved by the loyal Jets fans for leading them to their only Super Bowl win. Many diehard, long-suffering Jets fans, as myself, think this incompetent franchise may never again win another Super Bowl, so Joe’s luster has only grown through the years.
The film was narrated by Liev Schreiber.
REVIEWED ON 2/4/2012 GRADE: B