Top positive review
104 people found this helpful
on October 22, 2000
I was fifteen years old when "Brian's Song" premiered as a "Movie of the Week" on ABC-TV. I had no interest in sports then (I still don't), and had no intentions of watching this movie, but my dad persuaded me. "Just watch the first few minutes," he said. He knew that this was NOT a sports movie. He had read Gale Sayers' book "I Am Third" (upon which this movie is partially based), and knew that this was a movie about PEOPLE, not about football. The fact that the two lead characters are football players is almost incidental. This is a movie about friendship, love and courage. Needless to say, I watched it from start to finish, and have watched it many times since. Although its roots as a TV movie are obvious (the production values are nothing more than ordinary), "Brian's Song" is one of the most extraordinary films ever made, a particularly remarkable achievement when you consider its length of only 74 minutes. James Caan and Billy Dee Williams, both virtual unknowns at the time, play Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers with a sense of realism, and with respect for their real-life counterparts. Jack Warden is excellent (as always) as coach George Halas, and Shelley Fabares and Judy Pace turn in fine performances as Joy Piccolo and Linda Sayers. David Huddleston and Bernie Casey make the most of their small parts, and even real-life Chicago Bears provide some fine moments, particularly the "hazing" sequence. The sincere performances, along with William Blinn's beautifully-written teleplay, keep the action from becoming mawkish or sappy, Buzz Kulik's direction brought out the best in his actors, and Michel Legrand's score comments on the emotions in the film with exactly the right tone. (Legrand's penchant for marking musical cues to sudden movement onscreen is notable, and the gorgeous theme is one of the most emotionally charged pieces of music ever written.) The film ends on a freeze-frame of James Caan's face over narration by Jack Warden of William Blinn's words, and when that musical theme pulls out all the stops after Warden's narration ends, well...even the Chicago Bears themselves would be dissolved in tears. It's one of my all-time favorite movies, and I would recommend it without reservation to anyone, sports fan or not. Thanks, Dad.
The DVD version includes an exclusive short featurette, "Gale Sayers: First and Goal" in which present-day Gale Sayers discusses the movie and his career. It's interesting, but nothing special. Also included in audio commentary by Williams and Caan. Caan is a cutup and does most of the talking, and little of any real substance is said, but it IS quite entertaining, and definitely worth another viewing.
But then, "Brian's Song" is ALWAYS worth another viewing...