The Great Santini - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Great Santini Reviews

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Super Reviewer
January 18, 2009
Underrated classic. Robert Duvall at his best.
Mr Awesome
Super Reviewer
½ September 23, 2008
The Great Santini (1979): Starring Robert Duvall, Blythe Danner, Michael O'Keefe
A slow-simmering "sleeper" of a film, The Great Santini wavers between promising drama and goofy afterschool special. Robert Duvall plays "Lt. Col. 'Bull' Meechum" (the "Great Santini", although it's never explained what that means exactly), a drunken, abusive airforce lieutenant not accustomed to civilian life with his ever suffering family. Blythe Danner adopts a southern accent to play Lillian, Meechum's resolutely devoted wife. She looks at her husband with a hero-worshipper's eyes, yet doesn't necessarily forgive his abusive 'persona'. But it's the father's relationship with oldest son, Ben (Michael O'Keefe- best known for his role as "Danny Noonan" in "Caddyshack") that is the real focus of the story. The son seems to do everything he can to please his father, but it's never good enough. In a scene directly lifted and used in "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me", Meechum repeatedly hits his son in the face with a basketball, taunting "Are you gonna cry now? C'mon, squirt a few", and "1-2-3...cry! 1-2-3... cry!" after the son dares to beat the father in a game of one-on-one. The father treats his whole family as if they were a platoon of grunts, barking orders, calling his sons his "favorite daughters", waking them up at 3am, in short, making their life a bootcamp hell. The movie begins with the Lieutenant picking his family up and moving them down to the deep south (his latest deployment is teaching flight combat to a class of pilots) and from there, the movie splits it's time between the family's inter-relations and the bigotry and racism of the 1960s. The basketball theme returns later in the movie, as the father orders the son into doing something against the rules (and his own moral judgement) and the son does so, at the expense of his team and himself. It's perhaps one time when the fathers' judgement is shown to be publically fallible, and it triggers something in the son. Later, when Ben rushes off to save his black friend, "Toomer" (Stan Shaw) from town racist "Red Petus" (David Keith) (where they come up with these names, I don't know), he disobeys his father's direct orders. This movie moves, at various times, from light-hearted comedy to serious drama (and not always with a smooth transition), and I can't say the supporting cast is always up to the acting level the drama requires. The writing helps alot, as most of the characters aren't one-dimensional, especially the Great Santini himself, Lt. Meechum. He's a mean son-of-a-bitch, but it's not an intentional hatred, any more than a pitbull intends to be vicious: it's just the way he was bred. In the end, we're left wondering if the family ever really loved him, or just wanted him gone. The script also falters at the end, though, as we get 3 or 4 false endings, and by the fourth we are just praying for it to end already.
Super Reviewer
October 2, 2013
Duvall embodies cockiness to the nth degree as he sets unrealistic expectations for his offspring in living up to the greatness of Santini. It borders on annoying by the end but it is nonetheless a great character created.
Super Reviewer
½ October 14, 2009
I thought the kid who played Benny was a bit much. It was a bit unbelievable. Otherwise, the movie was pretty good. Duvall's character was funny. Sad though!
Super Reviewer
½ April 6, 2009
Duvall was nominated for this and watching it you will see why. Great story of a bullying father and husband, whos children make him come to turns with his issues.
Super Reviewer
July 8, 2008
Outstanding performances, especially by Robert Duvall.
June 30, 2009
An inept directorial performance collides with a career acting performance to make the total product mediocre. Duvall is awesome, but misused drama and boring presentation kill the buzz.
March 9, 2008
Duvall was terrific, as always, but despite O'Keefe's Oscar nod for this, I thought he was rather wooden, especially towards the end. Worth seeing, though, for Duvall, if nothing else.
Super Reviewer
½ February 21, 2008
Duvall in what at first appears to be another great performance...then it just ends up being a gigantic disappointment
August 25, 2007
Pat Conroy's first. My family life when I was a kid was just like this film- easier to get someone to watch this than to explain my childhood, you know?
½ April 5, 2007
OH LORD!!!! WHY DID YOU PUT SO MANY A'HOLES ON THIS EARTH??? One of the best characters in movie history.
½ March 12, 2007
1. based on a book by the greatest write of all times -- Pat Conroy
2. Robert Duvall-- one of the greatest actors of all time
½ September 28, 2006
Robert Duvall plays a great role in this movie of a hard core military man & father who rules the roost just like his military unit.
March 1, 2015
Just a well done family melodrama with oscar worthy performances by O'Keefe and Duvall.
February 25, 2015
I'm actually very surprised at how much I loved this movie. Going into it I expected some military movie but it's actually a family drama. Robert Duvall is great but the knock out performances come from Blythe Danner and Michael O'Keefe. Lisa Jane Persky is a scene stellar as the young daughter and adds nice comedic moments to an often times dark movie. It's well written and directed and I can't speak more highly of this great film.
November 17, 2013
I would like to see the movie, and I would like to know more about the military accomplishments of Bull Meechum, the Great Santini. He just wasn't meant to be a family man. That doesn't seem to be his calling.
May 9, 2013
By the film description, I was expecting something much more regarding a father/son relationship oriented story. Instead, Robert Duvall plays the same character he did in "Apocalypse Now." The era the film takes place is about a decade prior to America's involvement in Vietnam, and almost acts as a prequel to Coppola's "Apocalypse Now." The man who loves the smell of napalm in the morning is at home...bringing up four kids with his stay at home wife in the south. He continues his career as a Marine, yet always takes his work home with him. He gets his children up very early every am. They refer to him as "sir!" during family meetings and receive discipline akin to boot camp training. Especially his oldest son. What turns into discipline, quickly escalates into abuse. The moral of the story? Love and honor your father... even when you know he is wrong. The film does an excellent job depicting a tough relationship like this, however the film really never delves into what made Duvall's character what he is. Perhaps the relationship with his father? His experiences in World War II?

The film ends poetically...a glimpse into the future that will be the Vietnam war...and the choices the family has to make forward. A movie that could have been great, but instead wanders into cliche storytelling.
November 14, 2012
This was another movie my Papa (I call my grandpa Papa and my grandma Nanny) and me watched, and another movie we watched and loved! I was really surprised, at first I was like, 'Aw man, stupid plane movie, of course Papa would like this...' But when I watched it I found out it wasn't about the planes, it was about Bull Meechum (Santini) and his family. And the emotion really packed a punch! I cried! I never cry from movies, I do in stuff like Thee Dark knight Rises, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2, I cry at them because not only are they the last of the series, they're emotional and amazing! Amazing movie, highly, highly recommend!
October 28, 2012
shitty movie about a military family that no one really likes and i have to write a screening report on. Fuck Santini.
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