Reviewed by: Brett Willis
|Featuring||James Caan, Billy Dee Williams, Dick Butkus|
|Producer||Paul Junger Witt|
Having been born in Green Bay, I’m not partial to stories about the Chicago Bears. Fortunately, “Brian’s Song” is much more than a football movie; it’s about the bond formed between two very different men and the way they support each other in adversity. Some critics consider it one of the best TV movies ever made.
Gale Sayers (Billy Dee Williams) and Brian Piccolo (James Caan) are first seen as Bears rookies. Sayers (who still co-holds the NFL record of six touchdowns in one game) is sure to make the team; Piccolo has to work extra hard just to be second best. We see the two being chosen to “break the NFL ice” as interracial roommates; Brian helping Gale rehabilitate a knee injury; Gale supporting Brian during a life-threatening illness. The performances are very good, and actual on-field NFL archive footage is mixed with sideline reenactments to give the film an extra feeling of authenticity.
Profanity is limited to a few d* and h* expletives. The other possibly offensive area is racial language. In today’s politically correct environment, it may seem strange for Brian to jokingly use racial epithets and stereotypes on Gale. But in the ’60s my black friends and I could call each other any name we wanted, and we all understood that it wasn’t the same as when spoken by an outsider. I’m not arguing that racial slurs are good—I gave them up around the time I became a Christian. I’m just saying that a modern viewer of this film should not be distracted from its central message by taking offense where none is intended. And the central message is embodied in Gale’s (true-to-life) acceptance speech for a “courageousness” award, in which he not only says that Brian should get the award, but also that he “loves” Brian. At the time of that speech, our society viewed one man saying he loved another (in a pure way) as incorrect. But in the Kingdom of God, it has always been correct.