He was rather large, wasn’t he? If that is what viewers can bring to the forefront of their minds as they settle into Big George Foreman, then so be it. Grilling expert and former professional boxer George Foreman, here played by up-and-comer Khris Davis, spends more time detailing the in-ring spectacles than barbecue essentials. He faced off with the biggest and boldest, though bagged a championship at such an elderly age he set a record. Not everyone can throw a punch at 45 to win some title belts, some are unable to lift air fryers without mentally preparing for knee strain. Such is life, and though it is likely Foreman could knock most sunburnt, sweating journalists flat out, he is not here to find out. His feature film does not either, although Big George Foreman does very little.
Foreman fought well into his 50s although Big George Foreman rightly and expectedly takes its attention to the in-ring spectacle of the Rumble in the Jungle. When We Were Kings sets the scene, an essential documentary which is seemingly snubbed by George Tillmann Jr, who sets out to chart his own course. Lengthy sports dramatics are pushed through at a time when boxing is all the rage. Will Big George Foreman find its way out of the shadow of Creed III? It can barely lace up its gloves for a round in the ring against its stock boxing opening. But it does go the rounds and pushes on through as keenly as can be. Narration, tough streets, early years of an up-and-comer, there we are, the big three clichés for the biopic feature. At least Big George Foreman has a heart and thumping style to it, editing the silent unity into the messy accommodation Foreman grows up in.
Sonja Sohn is the real powerhouse for these formative years, the sacrifice of a mother for her family is made clear in all the right and honest ways. These early moments of heartstring-tugging understandings of poverty are traded in for the flashes of fame and the air of confidence in Zaire. Sullivan Jones gets his dues too with a confident portrayal of Muhammad Ali. Although a little ham-fisted and reliant on editing trickery and additional pangs of sound and sinister implications, the bulk of Big George Foreman is dependent on its performances. Tension lingers on as it naturally should and there is an element of Davis’ performance here which brings around the firm message of never forgetting your roots.
Even Forest Whitaker, the legend left behind by the rush of Hollywood, brings in a strong performance. Still, he would bring brilliance to the likes of Taken 3, no questions asked. Big George Foreman must steady itself when it gets to the big moments without straining itself. There is always a worry the likes of Ali are going to overshadow the eponymous man whose career spanned far longer than most. Thankfully it never boils over, the titular man behind the weighty punch is still very much the focus, and it is far more surprising than it should be to see this is the case. Big George Foreman does well to temper itself but not enough to pool its emotional core with its rather lacklustre showcases of in-ring action and the plodding bits in between. Even his heavyweight comeback is mired by this sickly emotional platitude.