Directed by: Spike Lee
Premise: A documentary on the life of football player, actor, and activist Jim Brown.
What Works: The film works best in its first half, covering Jim Brown’s background in an all black community and the ways in which his childhood prepared him for his activist role later in life. The football coverage is an exciting and interesting exploration of the physicality, strategy, and psychology of the game. The film reveals how Brown used his intellect on and off the field, parlaying his success in sports into a film career and gaining financial independence. This leads nicely into an exploration of Brown’s activist work during the civil rights movement and how he brought the sense of economics and responsibility to his participation in the movement.
What Doesn’t: The second half of the film gets bogged down in the soap opera elements of Brown’s life, mostly in his role as a father and his troubles with the law. The film loses some ground at this point because it wallows in the drama and loses the momentum of the first half of the picture.
DVD extras: Commentary track with Spike Lee.
Bottom Line: Jim Brown: All American is a very fascinating and overall well-crafted look into the life of a major figure in African American culture. Its flaws are overcome by the charisma of its subject matter and will be of interest to football fans, 60s film aficionados, and those with an interest in African American history.
Episode: #36 (January 23, 2005)