Movie Article

They're Not All That

Sports movies past their prime -- We tell you why ''Chariots of Fire,'' ''The Natural,'' and ''Jerry Maguire'' aren't as good the second time around

Sports movies past their prime

Like a gridiron legend playing past his prime, some classic sports movies loom a lot less large once the cheering fades. If the films below don't hold up, is it because they're dated or because we're no longer on the juice?

CHARIOTS OF FIRE (1981)
It's a pretty good character study of two disparate athletes at the 1924 Olympics — the young missionary (Ian Charleson) runs for God, the Jew (Ben Cross) runs to prove he belongs — but how this crossed the Best Picture Oscar tape ahead of Warren Beatty's Reds is an enduring mystery. Vangelis' synthesizer score sold like Fenway Franks but today it sounds about as period-appropriate as ''The Entertainer'' played on a Moog.

THE NATURAL (1984)
Barry Levinson takes Bernard Malamud's first novel — a slim downer parable of fate — and pumps it up into overripe Americana: Norman Rockwell on extra-strength steroids. Pushing 50, Redford's hard enough to believe as a 35-year-old comeback king, but as a rookie kid? And what's with the women in the movie? They're either evil succubi (Barbara Hershey, Kim Basinger) or bleacher Madonnas (Glenn Close). We'll keep Randy Newman's score, but the great diamond fantasy you're looking for is Field of Dreams.

JERRY MAGUIRE (1996)
It's not a sports movie. It's a chick flick with just enough football in it so a guy won't fall asleep and drool on his girlfriend's Fair Isle sweater. Where Tom Cruise once played jocks, now he's a suit — a sensitive suit. As for Cuba Gooding Jr.'s Academy Award-winning performance: You had us at hello, you lost us at Boat Trip.

Originally posted Nov 11, 2005 Published in issue #851 Nov 25, 2005 Order article reprints