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 iconic heavyweight boxer’s family, the film’s major point of interest is its use of materials from Ali’s personal archive. Audio recordings of the champ and his children, as well as a few home movies and candid photos, give some behind-the-scenes insight into his pugilist’s persona, while still burnishing the righteous myth.
It’s hard not to be charmed by such an energetic and loquacious subject. Watching archival footage of Ali fleet-footing his way across the ring and charming crowds of infinitely varying social and racial makeups, 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.
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