Play It to the Bone

Bomb Rating: 

This is a good metaphor for the directing career of Ron Shelton, who seemed somewhat coherent with "Bull Durham," but has steadily gone into the tank and now, with "Play it to the Bone," has graduated to a level of apoplexy that would do Ronald Reagan proud.

Watching this movie is a lot like playing with your little brother. You're tossing around that Nerf football, laughing, having a great time. Then you tell him to go long and huck that damn Nerf as far as it'll fly, and your little brother runs his heart out, watching the incoming football, not concentrating on where he's headed. And all of a sudden he smacks right into a tree. Of course, you're laughing your ass off until little bro gets up, stumbles a bit, looks at you, and then you realize that his eyes are no longer pointed in the same direction and he'll be lucky if he'll ever again be able to wipe his own ass without assistance.

This is a good metaphor for the directing career of Ron Shelton, who seemed somewhat coherent with "Bull Durham," but has steadily gone into the tank and now, with "Play it to the Bone," has graduated to a level of apoplexy that would do Ronald Reagan proud. This film could not have been much worse. Even in the worst films, I can often think of ways they could be worse. In "Mr. Wrong," for instance, Ellen DeGeneres could have had a love affair with a lesbian anteater. That would have made it worse. Sadly, however, Ellen DeGeneres having a love affair with an lesbian anteater would have made "Play it to the Bone" better.

There's barely a semblance of a story here, so I won't dwell on it much. Boxers Cesar Dominguez (Antonio Banderas) and Vince Boudreau (Woody Harrelson) are offered a last-minute bout in Las Vegas and are driven there by Grace (Lolita Davidovich). Shelton goes out of his way to tell us the weather report in Vegas: 84 degrees upon sunrise, with an expected high of 100. So here are Cesar, Vince, and Grace driving from Los Angeles across the desert, wearing leather jackets. Actually, I don't think Vince had a leather jacket, he was wearing a knit cap. After that follows about an hour of head shots and it seems as though this drive was shot in real time. I've had root canals seem positively zippy in comparison. Not to mention much, much less painful.

You'd have better luck finding ice cubes in the desert than you would finding a point to "Play it to the Bone." Perhaps Shelton wanted to make another sports film, and was simply running out of sports. Some of the stupider jokes about Cesar's boxing injuries scrambling his sexual orientation reek of such desperation you actually feel sorry for Shelton. In the fight itself, Cesar flashes back to his loss while Vince, in one of the most blatant excuses for showing big tits ever conceived, hallucinates that the ring girls aren't wearing tops. It made me wish that Shelton had hallucinated this movie.

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