He’s the Greatest – and Clare Lewins’s adoring documentary about Muhammad Ali never ceases to remind you of the fact. Made with the participation of several members of the heavyweight boxer’s family, the film’s major point of interest is its use of Ali’s personal archive. Audio recordings of the champ and his children, as well as a few home movies and candid photos, give us behind-the-scenes access.
It’s hard not to be charmed by such an energetic and loquacious subject as Ali. Watching footage of his fleet-footed moves in the ring and his ability to charm the crowds, you may come to believe this was a man truly possessed of messianic powers. But there are also less admirable aspects of his character (the philandering, the arrogance, the insults he hurled at rivals like Joe Frazier) that get too cursory acknowledgment. Ultimately, this feels like a hagiographic official portrait that takes the sting out of the proverbial bee.