Documentary Review: "HBO films: Andre the Giant" (2018)
You don't become certified by the public at large as "The Eighth Wonder of the World" unless you are a human being that there's never been an equal for. In my lifetime there's only been one person who fit the bill not just as an athlete, entertainer, & performer but as a myth & legend- the late, great Andre the Giant.
Andre the Giant is the reason that I am the wrestling nut that I am today without question. I was not quite 8 years old when my Dad took me to the no longer standing King Street Palace in Charleston, South Carolina for a WWF house (i.e. non-televised) show in 1987. In those days the barricades between you and the wrestlers were barred, not solid, and you could reach through. The match was Andre the Giant versus "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan. As Andre lumbered to the ring I pushed my way through to the barricade and reached through. I touched the leg of the Eighth Wonder of the World! He looked down from what seemed to my pint-sized ass to be about 8000 feet up and smiled briefly.
It is not exaggeration at all to say that moment changed my life. I can close my eyes and still see it vividly. Andre was the size of a god, but you could see the man in the smile. I've met celebrities at conventions and at jobs before, but that will always be the coolest fucking thing that ever happened to me.
I'm ecstatic that a proper documentary has finally been done on the one, true giant of professional wrestling. Younger folks who've only ever heard of Andre as a pop culture reference or know him as the weird face on the "Obey" clothing line can understand what a huge figure (no pun intended) he was.
There are a handful of sports figures that you can honestly say, in their day, would be mobbed by crowds in a village in Tibet as quickly as they would on a crowded street in NYC. Those names are once in a century stars- names like Michael Jordan, Hulk Hogan, or Muhammad Ali.
Andre was easily on that level, but he had the added attraction of being a literal giant. At 7 foot 4 and 520 pounds he couldn't avoid scrutiny. He was always the center of attention. His drinking exploits are the stuff of legend, superhuman feats that he achieved on a regular basis. He was revered by women. He was the greatest attraction in the history of sports. Period.
Is this a perfect documentary? No. It's not deeply insightful or revealing of any new material, but that's not the fault of the filmmaker. Andre Rousimoff was a very private man, and the world of professional wrestling was a very private one in those days. Essentially, a lot of what is out there about Andre has already been said. The best thing you can do is make a film with heart and show the proper respect to how truly awe-inspiring and unique Andre the Giant was.
Director Jason Hehir and Producer Bill Simmons do a bang-up job of that.
There are interviews with his siblings and his rarely seen daughter. You get the usual suspects, too- Vince McMahon, Hulk Hogan, Tim White, Rob Reiner & The Princess Bride cast members. What I really liked was the remarks and stories from those who lived on and cared for his North Carolina farm year-round. These are the people who really knew the real Andre and were there for his declining years when the cameras weren't there. You really feel the emotion of those closest to him in and out of the ring. He was clearly a man who had a monstrous impact on everyone he came in contact with. You get to see that he truly was the "gentle giant" and you feel the hardships he had to endure as a living sideshow attraction.
I laughed out loud at Vince and Hulk's stories of Andre's legendary flatulence complete with imitations of the legendary "Andre fart". Hulk's breakdown of how the famous Wrestlemania 3 match show you vividly just what a massive moment that was in the history and evolution of not just Hulkamania but the entire transformation of professional wrestling from niche entertainment / joke sport to worldwide phenomenon. When you see how important Andre was to that it opens your eyes.
The footage of his childhood home in Mollien, France and his farm in Ellerbe, North Carolina give you a real feel for who the man really was. The words of his daughter and brothers will draw some tears, I promise. Robin Wright's stories of Andre on the set of The Princess Bride are heartbreaking and lovely.
A good documentary should make you feel WHO that person really was. You will definitely feel how special Andre Rousimoff, the man, & Andre the Giant, the performer, really was. Excellent job to all involved. This one is getting good reviews and deserves it.