When We Were Kings

MPAA Rating: PG

Entertainment: +3

Content: -1

One enduring image from the Olympic Games in Atlanta was the lighting of the Olympic flame by boxing great Muhammad Ali. This Academy Award nominated documentary flashes back to a time when this popular athlete was at the top of his game. The year is 1974, as Ali and George Foreman prepare to battle for the heavyweight championship in Zaire. Originally intended to be climax a three-day festival, the fight is postponed for six weeks when Foreman was injured during training. Film-maker Leon Gast was going to film a musical concert, which features James Brown and B.B. King. When that event is a commercial failure because of the delay, Gast turns his attention to the boxers. While Foreman isn't too effervescent, Ali provides plenty of interesting material. Before he was stricken with Parkinson's disease in his later years, Ali was a master at the art of self-promotion. Never afraid to talk about himself in a colorful fashion, Ali brags confidently about his upcoming victory, even though the boxing world thought he had no chance. Scenes from 1974 are interspersed with remembrances of witnesses to this event, including writers Norman Mailer and George Plimpton. The images of Ali in his prime, plus a new perspective on Foreman, who later found a humorous side, makes this film especially interesting for boxing fans.

When We Were Kings concentrates primarily on the fighters' preparations and the match itself. But musical performances are also shown, along with glimpses of Zaire under totalitarian rule. These scenes inject some objectionable material, however. During a dance performance a female dancer rips open her shirt to expose her breasts. Soldiers mistreat local citizens, as one man is beaten and another is struck by a gun thrown at him. Offensive language includes three crude words and one "s-word." Although Ali is an engaging character, he's also a devout Muslim who speaks about his beliefs and blasphemes when he calls himself "God's son." Boxing promoter Don King also calls him "Messiah." Because of Ali's celebrity status, impressionable viewers may be enticed to accept these statements as true and be lured into a non-Christian religion. The unnecessary nudity and Ali's misguided religious convictions spoil this otherwise fascinating documentary.

Preview Reviewer: Mark Perry
Distributor:
Miramax Films, 375 Greenwich, New York, NY 10013

Summary
The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Few (3) times - Mild 3, Moderate 1

Obscene Language: Once (s-word)

Profanity: Twice - Exclamatory (My Lord, Oh my God)

Violence: Many times - Moderate (professional boxing match, man struck by soldier, soldier throws gun at man)

Sex: None

Nudity: Female breast nudity once; near nudity few times with women in revealing clothes

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: Few times (smoking)

Other: Racial slur (n-word) used three times; fighter refers to himself as 'God's son'; promoter calls fighter 'Messiah'; Muslim beliefs espoused

Running Time: 107 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults, especially boxing fans


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