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Brian's Song
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Reviews & Ratings for
Brian's Song (TV) More at IMDbPro »

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19 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

Comparing this to the original is like apples & oranges..

Author: Robert Nielsen (robertwnielsen) from Urbandale, IA USA
14 January 2002

Because they're so different. James Caan and Billy Dee Williams WERE Pic & Gale. These two new guys, well, they just don't cut it. It'd be like re-casting "Star Trek" with total unknowns as the Enterprise bridge crew. Oh, wait. That already happened, and IT actually worked. This remake, however, didn't.

The main reason the original "Brian's Song" was so good was the way that Billy Dee Williams (Sayers) & James Caan (Pic) interacted, with Pic bouncing racist remarks off Gale left & right. This new, PC version waters the racism down almost to the point of non-existence.

Also, scenes that made the original so funny were completely omitted; for example, early in the film, the Piccolos & Sayers were at a pizza parlor, & Brian described a play gone wrong, ending with, "So, anyway, all the linemen go this way, and it's like I am lookin' at a team portrait of the Los Angeles Rams....Hey, Deacon! Merlin? How's the family, Rosie?" Then Gale pipes up, "It's like, I'm roomin' with a colored player again!" Again, I'm sure this scene was omitted due to its racial undertones, but it took away from the humor of the film.

I found this new version to be much darker, focussing more on Brian's illness and the consequences than on the relationship between he & Gale Sayers, which was the main thing that made the original so special. If you can find the original on VHS or DVD, get it. But, stay away from the remake.

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Get the original, skip the remake

3/10
Author: Bud Talley from United States
25 May 2010

Pic was a senior at Wake Forest when I was a freshman there. His last year at Wake was one for the ages. He led the nation in rushing & scoring. (As it was put in the original movie: "I mean I led the ENTIRE nation!") He even did the place-kicking.....scoring all 20 points in a 20-7 win over ACC Co-Champ Duke that year. Pic & QB John Mackovic (who led the ACC in total offense that year) led the Deacs to a 5-5 record. That may not seem like much to some people, but Wake Forest had gone 1-19 the previous two years.

Anyway, the original movie is one of the best movies I have ever watched. It is unbelievably heart-breaking at the end....particularly for all of us who knew Pic. And with less than 4,000 students, everyone knew everyone else at Wake Forest....at least a little bit. I have a DVD copy which I watch from time to time, and which still moves me to tears. I encourage anyone who wishes to see "Brian's Song"...and that should be everybody...to do whatever you have to do to find the original version, and skip this inferior remake. The original movie portrays Pic & Sayers the way they really were.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Sad: But not a tearjeaker as the TV Classic of 1971!

6/10
Author: Paul Manijak (pmanijak@aol.com) from United States
6 December 2001

This remake and I have no idea why they remade it, is good but not as powerful and less sad as the original. If ABC wanted to open the story again to a new generation why didn't they just show the classic film. The new version missed too many opportunies to break the audience into tears as the original did and still does so well. Sorry to say to younger generation this version is no classic and if want to view finer acting and have more tears watch the original thou the style of filmmaking has changed...meaning the classic has the 70's look, the 1971 film it still one of the best tv films made... Sorry, it's true.

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6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Where'd the music go?

Author: Zalis from Lincoln, NE
16 August 2002

Although this remake falls a little bit short of the original in several departments (that others have brought up, such as the casting and the watering down of the racially charged dialogue between Sayers and Piccolo), it stays fairly true to the core story, with some new parts about their families and a more extensive portrayal of Piccolo's illness. "Brian's Song" has often been described as a "Love Story" style tearjerker for guys, and the new version managed to pull this off with me, in the night scene where the two are talking alone on the field, and we hear just a few notes of the Michael Legrand theme from the original. This brings me to my main point. . .why not more of that music? That theme (called "the Hands of Time") is, in my opinion, one of the most poignant and emotionally touching bits of music I know. If one listens carefully, you can hear some examples of derivative composing in movies such as "Lilo & Stitch" where other composers try to cash in on the Brian's Song theme.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

The original is so much better

4/10
Author: tornadomediaman from Indianapolis, IN
4 January 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I've seen both versions and the original is vastly superior. A lot of it is in the details which can never be recaptured. First of all, the original used many actual players, coaches, and team personnel from the Bears. Secondly, they filmed the training camp sequences on location at Rensselaer, IN's St. Joseph's College where the Bears used to train. The office that George Halas uses is the actual office the real George Halas used on campus! They used archival game film - none of this fake announcer stuff and re-enactments. I've heard some give credit to the new version for focusing more on the cancer element of the story. The heart of the story is not the cancer but the friendship between Piccolo and Sayers - a white rural man and a black man fighting for the same job in the 1960's. Some complain about the "racism" in the original version but to ignore that would be to ignore slavery in the Civil War - it's the racial element that made their friendship and their story so transcendental. Let me remind you that a racial comment is not necessarily a racist comment. There's a powerful scene in the original in which Gale Sayers is brought to tears from the laughter when Piccolo tries to call him a "n****r". They both realize the foolishness of the gesture and at that moment, their friendship takes an important step. We can't do that today, because someone might get offended. But if you're really honest with yourself, you can see where a word of such unspeakable hatred actually got turned on its ear and two men saw each other not for the color of their skin but for the content of their character. The new version didn't accomplish anything new - it just changed the movie to a story about cancer. The original is so much more than a football movie as it speaks to some very sensitive racial issues that Americans were grappling with in the 1960s - much of which was still living in defacto segregation.

If you read Gale Sayers' book, I Am Third, which is the inspiration for this movie then you'll agree that the original version got it right.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

still the best!

Author: dtucker86 from Germany
21 December 2001

Maher and Phifer do a terrific job of bringing Piccolo and Sayers to life. Brain's Song was in a way the grandaddy of them all, one of the first made for television movies; and in the eyes of many one of the best. I think it would take a person utterly without feelings not to be moved by the original and this one (surprise, surprise) is just as good. I thought it would be a word by word remake (like that ridiculous Psycho movie in 1998) but this one is different. I guess to be politically correct, it shows more of the relationship between the players wives as well. What makes it a little chilling is the makeup job on Maher as he is becoming sicker and sicker, they pointed out that you couldn't show death on tv that way in 1971. I think that they should have used the exact same music as in the original, it was just too perfect and it would not have mattered (didn't they use the same music in all of the Rocky films?). I hope that we see more of these two young actors as both did a terrific job and I hope they remember them at Emmy time. An added treat, that old raascal Ben Gazzara is on hand as grouchy Coach Halas and he does a wonderful job of theatrical larceny. A story of courage found and the power of friendship, but ultimately a tragedy. A an added footnote, today medical science has made great advances in treating the kind of cancer that killed Brian Piccolo.

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

As good as original. Let me tell you why

Author: Don Sturm from Wisconsin
4 September 2004

I just read all of the comments on this movie and some people did not like this remake. "Brian's Song" is my favorite movie of all time and when I saw the remake, I was impressed. The first part of this remake was word for word to the original but then they started to go in depth. The original 1971 version showed more of the friendship of Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers, which was great, but the 2001 remake showed more of Piccolo's struggle with cancer. The title of the movie is "Brian's Song" so I thought it was great to show this aspect of his life. If you do what I did and watch both DVD's back to back, starting with the 1971 original, you will get the full story of Brian Piccolo. It doesn't matter that the Michel Legrand theme song isn't featured as much in the remake; this is the story of a man's life, not a song. If you liked the original movie as much as I did, take these comments to heart and rewatch this remake. If you have never seen the original movie, I highly recommend it. Like I said up front, 1971's "Brian's Song" is my all time favorite movie but on a scale of 1-10, I have to give this remake a 10.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Pointless remake

3/10
Author: BDeWittP from United States
4 March 2011

When I saw the original Brian's Song film from 1971 with Billy Dee Williams and James Caan, I was entertained and very moved. I didn't see how they could have done a better job with a story like this. As it turns out, I was right, but I never thought it would be a portent of things to come. Remaking a masterpiece like the original begs the question, as Roger Ebert once said "Why are they remaking the good movies? Why not remake the bad ones?" This film is definitely a case in point.

This version is, in a word, terrible. The writing is extremely bad, the acting is awful, and the scenes are dramatically shapeless. Most notably, the film was overtly miscast. The 1971 film was honest, but appropriate about the racial issues at the time, the remake is much too delicate and only seems worried about being politically correct and inoffensive. Sorry, but that doesn't make a realistic portrayal of the time period that this film is trying to illustrate.

In the original, James Caan played Brian Piccolo as a likable, fun-loving, nice, loose guy with a good sense of humor and who loved life. Sean Maher's performance is a disgrace. In his performance, he makes Piccolo look like an annoying, ill-mannered, judgmental jerk. Mekhi Phifer is almost as bad as Gale Sayers, who makes him look like an on screen version of Deion Sanders. As the players in the movie put it, he does indeed come across as "uppity," flashy, and seemingly avoiding contact with others because he thinks he's better than they are, not because he's shy. Billy Dee Williams played Gale Sayers as the man he truly was: a quiet, unprepossessing, gentlemanly, shy type who simply felt awkward around people because he had trouble relating to them. I would've liked to have seen actors with personalities more similar to the characters portray these two players: like Rob Brown as Gale Sayers, and James Vanderbeek as Brian Piccolo.

The coaches are portrayed as stiff, businesslike men with no affability, personality, or compassion for the players. Ben Gazzara is totally unconvincing as George Halas, and looks and speaks more like a priest than a pro football coach. The dialogue is truly insulting because it spells out what we already know about the players. Most of the time, the characters sound like actors reciting their lines and forcing information on the audience, instead of people who are speaking conversationally and expressing their true feelings.

When Joy Piccolo says to Brian, after seeing Gale's acceptance speech for his rookie of the year award, "He's not arrogant, he's shy," it's useless information we already know. Another example: when Brian and Gale are running together to help rehabilitate Gale's injured knee, they're both expressing their worries, strengths, and weaknesses, most notably Gale's anxiety about life after football, and Brian's aspirations about when he'll actually be able to make his contribution to the team. These things were wisely never expressed in conversation in the original because the writing was intelligent enough to allow the audience to figure it out for themselves, without unnecessary discussion. Good films never use dialogue when they don't need to.

Finally, the beautiful instrumental musical version of the song "The Hands of Time" elevated the mood and poignancy of the first movie, which the remake could've used more often. Why didn't they use the music again in more of this movie? This is an example of how music can magnify the illustration of a scene and ultimately enhance a story.

This movie left a lot to be desired for, but a story as good as the first one needn't have been remade in the first place. I would recommend the 1971 film as a true timeless classic and one of the best sports movies of all time. The remake was just a bad idea that should have never happened.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

get the original

2/10
Author: steven_winkler6 from United States
11 March 2006

There was absolutely no reason for Disney to remake this movie. They should just re-air the original every year. I am sure the actors in the latter version were good, but the '71 version is classic.

It's unfortunate that Disney did not want to air a film that had some racial overtones, but guess what?? There was a lot of that in the '60s. Brian's Song will always be James Caan and Billy D.

I wish filmmakers would stop re-making classics and just stay with the originals.

People should know that this is not a sports movie. It is a movie with sports as a backdrop.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Just one question: Why?

Author: john_baur
15 August 2003

The original was the best football movie ever. It also was the one movie that made it all right for guys to get weepy (just TRY not to sniffle during the "I love Brian Piccolo" speech) and it featured actual game footage of Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo. The new version adds nothing.

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