Resurrecting the Champ
Despite its earnest attempts to stir your heart, the mushy Resurrecting the Champ unfortunately falls short of its mark.
Denver Times reporter Erik Kernan (Josh Hartnett) is a bit down on his luck as a sports reporter who's looking for a big break. He's living in the shadow of his father who was a legendary sports broadcaster, and his wife (Kathryn Morris), who is not only a better reporter, but she's giving him grief about his strained relationship with his son (Dakota Goyo). Of course, he tells his son he's good buddies with Muhammad Ali and John Elway, but they're all lies. Then Kernan meets a homeless man who calls himself ''Champ'' (Samuel L. Jackson). After Champ is nearly beaten to death by drunken thugs, Kernan discovers Champ may be a past boxing legend named Battling Bob. Kernan tries to convince his editor (Alan Alda) he's sitting on a great story to no avail. Then goes over his head to go to the Sunday magazine editor (David Paymer) to run the story. But Kernan doesn't quite check all his facts, which becomes more evident when a hard-ass TV exec (Teri Hatcher) comes to investigate the story.
Hartnett is a tough sell as a likable character at times, and his Kernan isn't very sympathetic. Hartnett tends to use his perfect pouting face and puppy-dog eyes to an irritating degree. Jackson is always good at what he does, but he too can go over-the-top if he's not reigned in by a competent director. Unfortunately, that's the case in Resurrecting the Champ. Even the very talented supporting cast of Alda, Paymer and Hatcher seem very wasted in lackluster roles. In fact, they all get nearly eclipsed by child actor Goyo, who shines when he's onscreen.
Rod Lurie, best known for helming The Contender and the now-defunct TV show Commander in Chief, was a film critic and entertainment journalist back in the day. He knows the lowdown on how a real newspaper works. And he certainly knows what pitfalls to avoid in portraying cinematic journalists. Still, all this doesn't keep Resurrecting the Champ from being unfocused and overly sentimental. The overall tone of the film seems heavy and depressing, even though the story doesn't seem to warrant all that brooding. Champ just tries too hard, much like the reporter in the story.
Hollywood.com rated this film 1 1/2 stars.