Wildly successful and notoriously bellicose University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban gets a full-on tongue bath from this hagiographic portrait--unsurprising, as the university is one of the film's producers. Even worshipful fans may find themselves put off by the unimaginative mixture of talking head interviews and too brief game clips, interrupted by obligatory protests that student players put academics first. With ESPN's 30 on 30 series raising the bar for serious sports documentaries, there's really no place for this kind of film; commercial prospects will be limited to the most dedicated Alabama fans.
There's no question Saban, who once compared the shock of a lost game to the out-of-nowhere surprises of Pearl Harbor and 9/11, is a colorful guy; some of his more profane press conferences (one during which he tells a hapless reporter not to stutter) and over-the-top pre-game locker room exhortations (urging the other team's utter destruction) give the film some spark. But the film will maddeningly insist that Saban's not just an outstanding coach but also an all-around wonderful guy: much time is taken up by showing other people's copious and uncritical praise of him in every department of his life. Whether or not Saban is an inspirational role model, it makes for dull viewing.
With the film firmly oriented towards Saban's time in Alabama, his childhood is glossed over quickly and his time at earlier colleges is reduced to a blur of victories. Alabama's schedule is treated in exhaustive detail, although actual clips are rare: there's much more talk than action. Sports people frequently tend to talk in vague clichés, and so it is here.
That's in part because the actual coaching can be technical and nearly incomprehensible to casual fans. There's some brief footage of Saban on the field, giving precise instructions. These are fascinatingly minute but also incredibly boring to a non-player; so when talking for interviews most people stick to platitudes. Saban in particular hammers home, over and over, one point: his players play every play as if they don't know how much time's left or what the score. That's obviously impossible, but that's his "philosophy," and he repeats it with monotoned persistence.
Viewers who stick around after the end credits will be able to see the biggest personal revelation made (aside from his kids' inadvertent disclosure that they consider seeing him for just five minutes a day a wonderful thing): to unwind, Saban likes to drive a speedboat and listen to music really loudly. Otherwise, this is the record, recapped dully.
Distributor: Flashlight Media Group
Director: Trey Reynolds
Screenwriters: Grant Guffin
Producers: Grant Guffin and Trey Reynolds
Running time: 92 min
Release date: August 27 ltd.