Making the Grades
Erik Kernan (Josh Hartnett) isn't down for the count, but he's starting to tire in the ring of newspaper journalism. Covering the sports beat at the fictional Denver Times, his writing is wearying his editor, Metz (Alan Alda), who waits patiently for the young man to land a great story. To make matters worse, Erik lives in the shadow of his deceased father, a legendary sports reporter. His overall lack of confidence is also the wedge separating him and his wife Joyce (Kathryn Morris), another employee at the paper, and a source of heartbreak for his greatest fan -- his young son Teddy (Dakota Goyo).
After covering a boxing match one evening, Erik happens across a group of kids roughing up a homeless man. When the thugs proudly proclaim they've beat The Champ, Erik's curiosity is aroused. Approaching the bedraggled bum, he asks him about the moniker, and to his amazement realizes the drunk is a former legendary fighter.
Battling Bob Satterfield (Samuel L. Jackson), a contender whose "glass jaw" never allowed him to quite grasp the big championship title, has certainly seen better days. Still, most of the sports community assumes Satterfield died years ago, which means Erik has just discovered a powerful story lying in a back alley. Hoping this opportunity is the professional punch he so desperately needs, the journalist visits Satterfield again the next day and begins a relationship with the man. Typically this consists of buying the down-and-outer a few cases of beer to loosen up his conversational abilities. Dozens of bottles and late nights later, Erik has captured the life of the lost pugilist. And when he puts it into print, it takes the front cover of the paper's weekend magazine and opens Erik's career to entirely new directions.
Those who aren't fans of boxing will be happy to know this isn't a movie about the sport. Yes, there are a few minutes of ring time on screen -- with some associated sports violence -- but the script is far more about relationships between fathers and sons, and the lengths a dad will go to secure those bonds. With strong messages of devotion to marriage, making difficult ethical decisions, and knowing how to forgive, this film has tremendous potential and relevance to both teen and adult audiences.
Family viewers will need to weigh in these great messages against some content concerns that may be too intense for young viewers, such as the aforementioned boxing violence (some blood is shown) and bothersome scenes of Satterfield being beaten up by kids having "fun." Language includes frequent mild and moderate profanities, terms of Christian deity, and a single use of a sexual expletive. However, sexual content in this film provides yet another positive message with Eric deciding to put his struggling marriage first when given opportunities to have sexual relations with other women.
Based on a true incident, Resurrecting the Champ offers a great story about what it means to be a father and the price a dad may pay for wanting to be a hero in his child's eyes.