Plot synopsis (from IMDb):As he approaches manhood, Ben Meechum struggles to win the approval of his demanding alpha male father, an aggressively competitive, but frustrated marine pilot.
Warning: Spoilers below!
- I liked that the movie preserved some of Bull Meechum’s more interesting characteristics, such as saying, “Stand by for a fighter pilot!” when he walked into a room or addressing his family members as “Sports fans” when talking to them.
- The complex relationship between Ben and his father was portrayed relatively well. I thought it was done a lot better in the book (because of the more leisurely pace the author had to develop the characters), but wasn’t disappointed with this aspect of the film.
- The basketball scene, where Bull kept egging Ben on to retaliate for a hard foul committed against him, was the best as far as showcasing Santini’s true colors. That was really the only scene in which his utter brutality shone through for me.
- As with most older movies, I just can’t understand how/why some of the acting performances were praised. While Robert Duvall and Blythe Danner were okay (and certainly the best of this particular cast), I didn’t think they were amazing. And the kid that played Ben? Sorry, but I thought he was only average. Don’t even get me started on the sister. Yikes.
- I thought there was a missed opportunity to highlight the friendship between Ben and Toomer. That was one of the more interesting subplots of the book, but received really short shrift in the film.
- The movie didn’t make Bull Meechum appear to be nearly as mean and sadistic as he truly was. Yes, he was bad here…but he was SO MUCH WORSE in the book.
Obviously when a film is adapted from a successful book, comparisons are inevitable. Since I’d read the book first, I couldn’t possibly go into this movie without having certain expectations about the characters and situations — which failed to be met. Perhaps if I’d seen The Great Santini under different circumstances, I could rate it higher. As it is, I give this one just 3 stars out of 5.