Growing up, my father was in the army, and not at all what one would describe as famous. Do you know my dad? You probably do not.
Muhammad Ali, arguably the greatest boxer of all time, had four kids. Three girls and a boy. That was with his first wife, he did have more kids later on in different marriages as well. The boy though in this situation shared his name, becoming Muhammad Ali Jr. (and he had that name his whole life! (I am not against name changes, I support them, I am just noting the fact) ). So Jr here when growing up had one of the more legit claims to “my dad could beat your dad up” in existence.
But was that fact a positive?
I want to just jump straight into the IMDB description of My Father Muhammad Ali to help paraphrase things:
This documentary tells the story of champion boxer Muhammad Ali through the eyes of his only biological son, Muhammad Ali Jr. Muhammad Jr struggled with bullying, abandonment, addiction, family and heartbreak to ultimately find peace.
Oh, that doesn’t sound positive at all for Jr. Let’s continue then.
I know this is a spot for jokes, and it will sound like one, but I can actually see a strong resemblance.
Dealings with abandonment can make a lot of sense. If your father is a celebrity, and someone who has to be away from home a lot, it makes sense. Family issues makes sense, if he has a lot of other siblings from other families, and was the youngest kid when Muhammad left his mother.
And getting to hear about Muhammad Ali from his son IS a unique perspective. I was very excited to find out how this documentary was framed and done.
However, the documentary itself was very odd. It makes sense to find Jr at a weird point of his life, and they had a crew following him around doing regular life things. There aren’t really narrators in this movie, but for some reason we do have a psychiatrist I think? Monica O’Neal is in here to talk to Jr to get him to better talk about his feelings and past and come to various conclusions to help him out. This is like a very edited therapy session for him.
And it is so strange. For example, early on Monica talking with…someone else, the director? I am not sure. Mentions Jr’s best friend and seems to imply he is a negative on his life, but I never really got that through any of the footage.
I want to add on that my uncomfortableness over this documentary isn’t because I thought I was delving deep into someone’s psyche and they were being exposed. The whole thing just felt exploitative in a way. Like the star himself was being taken advantage of by the people making the documentary, even though he himself wanted his story and anti-bullying message out there. It feels like this documentary could have been an episode on some TLC reality show about people with shitty lives?
I know there is another celebrity therapist documentary from last year, Stutz with Jonah Hill. I haven’t seen it yet, but I hope it did a lot better on this concept.