SXSW 2012 film review
Director: Nelson George
On Thursday, November 7, 1991, Earvin “Magic” Johnson made the stunning announcement that he was HIV-positive and would be retiring from basketball immediately. The Announcement gets to the core of Magic’s incredible personal journey.
Film Synopsis (from SXSW.com)
WHO’S IT FOR? People who love Magic Johnson or have no idea about what it was like when he announced he was HIV-positive.
Where were you when he announced?
That’s a question that might not hit many people. When you realize I’m talking about an athlete, you might think, “Oh, you mean where did he announce where he was going to college?” But I’m talking about Magic Johnson’s announcement that he was HIV-positive. In 1991 this was huge. Bigger than anything else. I remember being glued to the TV, not fully understanding everything he said.
Seeing footage of Johnson in college and even before that was is fun, but it seems this isn’t worth the time of a documentary called The Announcement. Though I have to admit, talk of Magic and Cookie (his eventual wife) is amusing. I mean, a couple named Magic & Cookie? It wouldn’t work if it was fiction.
The thing that doesn’t let me in as much as I wanted with this documentary squarely lands on Johnson’s big shoulders. It’s a terrible decision to have Magic narrate the film. He just doesn’t have the impact in his voice necessary. It’s obvious he’s delivering/reading the lines. Even in his interview, he just looks and sounds like he is acting. It just fees like his version of the story. You have to remember, “The Magic Hour” failed for a reason.
Twenty-five minutes into the film, we finally get to the press conference. For me, the new information is worth it. For example, the way Johnson discovered he was HIV-positive is because he was a superstar, not just a star. The Lakers had him go through a life insurance physical examine, which is more thorough.
Beyond that there were too many times when I felt like they glossed over issue. Like this quote from Cookie, “There’s one thing when you talk about other women, or whatever it was.” What the hell is that? That’s how this documentary captures Cookie dealing with her husband sleeping around? Ohbytheway, Magic had a 10-year-old kid at the time. Magic is just not opening up. There’s only slight talk about unprotected sex and being reckless is about it.
There was also no inclusion or comment about the round of applause he received for saying he wasn’t gay on “The Arsenio Hall Show.” I remember that moment, but it seems Magic would like us to forget that part, and just remember Karl Malone didn’t like playing basketball against someone with an under-educated disease. No comment? For all the steps he was making for awareness, that moment is a step back.
On a technical level, 45-minutes into the film, they are still showing Ervin “Magic” Johnson on the screen. I think we know who he is at this point.
With all my small gripes, I still loved seem footage from the All-Star game and the odd ’96 comeback. Magic Johnson has led an amazing life, he’s just not the right one to tell his story.
FINAL SCORE: 5/10