The Great White Hype (1996)

DVD Cover (Twentieth Century Fox)
Genres: Boxing, Comedy, Satire, Sports Comedy
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Reginald Hudlin Reginald Hudlin
Samuel L. Jackson Samuel L. Jackson
Jeff Goldblum Jeff Goldblum
Peter Berg Peter Berg
Corbin Bernsen Corbin Bernsen
Jon Lovitz Jon Lovitz

5.5 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by bluemeanie
Added: August 19, 2007
Since I've been on a bit of a Peter Berg bashing kick lately, I thought I would take the time to remember a film, in which Peter Berg was not horrible, but in fact, quite enjoyable. "The Great White Hype" is the name of the film and it was released in 1996, directed by the same man who brought us "House Party" and "Boomerang", and penned by the great Ron Shelton, who directed "Bull Durham", "White Men Can't Jump", "Tin Cup" and "Dark Blue". The film is one of the most complete and thorough comedies I have ever seen. It knows where it wants to go and it gets there, fearlessly. "The Great White Hype" is one of my very favorite comedies.

The always kinetic Samuel L. Jackson stars as the Reverend Fred Sultan, a boxing promoter uncannily similar to Don King, who always gets what he wants and just so happens to represent the heavyweight champion of the world, James 'The Grim Reaper' Roper (Damon Wayans). After the champ has beaten everyone out there, the Sultan decides to track down the only person to ever beat Roper -- Terry Conklin (Peter Berg), who doesn't box anymore, has taken up pacifism, and just so happens to be white. Sultan arranges a match between Roper and Conklin, betting large sums of money on Roper's ability to quickly dispose of Conklin. However, 'Irish' Terry starts to develop a following of his own, and while he's busy hitting the gym and working hard, Roper is eating burgers and drinking shakes and gaining large sums of weight. The film comes down to the match between the two, and you will never in a million years guess how this motion pictures ends. It's hysterical.

This is one cynical film. It's filled with characters who are so well drawn and so over-the-top, that they just can't help but work. The humor works on so many levels, as slapstick, as farce, as downright vicious comedy. Some of the standout scenes include anything involving Sol (Jon Lovitz) and any time Jackson's character gets one of his patented monologues to deliver. The film also works because it never lets the audience get too far ahead. If you think you can predict where this film is going, you're probably wrong. It weaves and wobbles and goes here and there -- just like a boxing match -- and then it ends in considerably cynical fashion.

The performances here are stellar comedic gems. Samuel L. Jackson delivers his best comedic performance since "Pulp Fiction" and he soaks up every second he's on screen as the Reverend Sultan. Jeff Goldblum does what he does best -- himself -- as a wannabe promoter. Peter Berg is quite enjoyable and rather entertaining as 'Irish' Terry Conklin -- he really does manage to make you like his character a lot. Damon Wayans is just enough of a bastard to make Roper work, and Jon Lovitz, Corbin Bernsen and Cheech Marin round out a wonderful ensemble cast that knows what they're doing and how to make it funny.

"The Great White Hype" is not mentioned a lot these days, but I find it to be utterly hysterical in so many ways, and I felt like giving Peter Berg a bit of a break, even though I'm not really a fan. This is his best film.

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