HBO’s latest original film ‘Paterno’ is the latest in the ripped from the headlines/topical film from filmmaker Barry Levinson. He first began this series of film with Al Pacino with “You Don’t Know Jack”, then he teamed with Robert De Niro for last year’s “The Wizard of Lies” and now he reteamed with Al Pacino chronicling the events of the Penn State sex abuse scandal that not only rocked the university but also the legacy of one of the NCAA’s most prominent figures, Joe Paterno.
The scandal that was all over the news a better part of a decade ago focuses on Paterno and what he knew when he knew it. Pacino wearing a prothetic nose and oversized aviators looks a lot like Paterno and walks and talks like him as well.
The film isn’t all that good. It has a decent cast of character actors built around Pacino including Kathy Baker as his steadfast wife and Jim Johnson as Jerry Sandusky who looks remarkably like the real-life Sandusky, but there’s much more to a film than casting and likeness. This is a story that took up weeks and months of the 24-hour news cycle as well as ESPN and other sports networks. The story is well known well enough to those who do not follow sports, and the film came out so long after the real-life events that it isn’t really all that interesting.
Pacino is fine; it’s one of his more lowkey performances but he really isn’t given very much to do. He sits around and looks at people. That type of character is perfect in a film like “Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy” when there is a lot going on behind the scenes and the story is incredibly gripping, but when it comes to this film, it comes off as a not a missed opportunity but a waste of time.
The film goes for a haymaker punch by the end, trying to peel back Paterno and introspectively discover the truth about what he knew when he knew it, but by that time the film has worn out its welcome and the film becomes a slog to finish. There isn’t much that’s worth seeing in the film. If you’re an avid Penn State champion or are curious about the events in the film because you ended up missing the massive amounts of new coverage, the film might be worth checking out for you. If you are even remotely aware of the events that transpire during the film, skip it.