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No surprise: Rodman movie stinks

"Bad as I Wanna Be: The Dennis Rodman Story" is a rather revolting TV movie.

Like, you're surprised?The acting isn't bad - well, at least it's not much worse than it is in a lot of TV movies. And the direction is OK.

The script is mildly entertaining. But it's the greatest whitewash job since "Tom Sawyer" - a sanitized version of Rodman's life that's heavy on "Woe is me, poor Dennis" and light on the Chicago Bull's more unsavory behavior.

Of course, the fact that "Bad" is all about Rodman makes its unsavory flavor inevitable.

"Bad as I Wanna Be" (Sunday, 8 p.m., Ch. 4) intersperses snippets of "commentary" by Rodman into a dramatization of his life, with actor Dwayne Adway playing the title role. The movie opens with Rodman wearing freakish clothes and makeup and asking rhetorical questions:

"Do I make you nervous? Why is the NBA afraid of me? Is it because I'm different? . . . I'm the man I choose to be."

Which pretty much sums up what a confused fellow Rodman is. He'd like to think he makes us nervous. He'd like to think the NBA is afraid of him.

And while he's all for defending his right to make choices, Rodman fails to recognize the rights of anyone who might choose to disagree with or disapprove of his decisions.

We're told right up front that "the following dramatization is based on published accounts and interviews." And "dramatization" is the important point to remember here - along with the fact that Rodman approved the script.

If someone were making a movie about your life, wouldn't you want to be portrayed in the most favorable light possible?

The movie, for example, puts a spin on Rodman the husband and father that you can't help but wonder about. His ex-wife is portrayed as a gold-digger. And Dennis is portrayed as a wonderful father.

It's impossible not to wonder how things might have looked had his ex-wife and child been consulted on the script. And it's chilling to see the real Rodman smile into the camera as he says, "And that was it for my marriage."

About the worst behavior we see from the fictional Dennis is in the teleflick's opening minutes, where he's a minor-league crook with a major-league attitude. After that, it's a litany of poor-Dennis stories.

Poor Dennis, his mother was so tough on him she turned him out of her house. Poor Dennis, the girls told him he was too ugly to kiss. Poor Dennis, the entire population of Oklahoma (where he attended college) was full of bigots who made his life hell. Poor Dennis, his mother sold the car he gave her. Poor Dennis, his active sex life leaves him too tired to give his best effort to the Detroit Pistons.

You get the picture.

About the only recent bad behavior we see out of the fictional Rodman is when he head-butts an NBA official and when he tells a reporter that Larry Bird only gets a lot of attention because he's white (a charge picked up by his then-teammate, Isiah Thomas).

There's nothing about him kicking a photographer and other anti-social behavior. Nothing about his anti-Mormon comments during last year's NBA Finals.

As a matter of fact, the movie ends just as he's joining the Chicago Bulls. Which is not to say that Utah doesn't play a part in "Bad as I Wanna Be."

There are scenes of Rodman in what's supposed to be Salt Lake City during a playoff series between the Spurs and the Jazz - but what the story is really about is his affair with Madonna.

(There are a few brief scenes of the fake Rodman playing the fake Jazz, but you'll notice that those are not real Jazz uniforms. Actually, there are nothing but fake NBA uniforms in this movie - Jazz, Spurs, Pistons, etc. - because the league didn't cooperate in the production. Like, you're surprised?)

There are some perfectly ludicrous scenes of fans pounding on the window of the Salt Lake restaurant where Rodman and Madonna are dining; of Jazz fans ignoring the team's win over the Spurs to chant Madonna's name; of a crowd of screaming fans chasing Rodman and Madonna down an alley toward their limousine.

That might have looked more realistic if the fans were carrying torches and pitchforks.

And we're supposed to feel sorry for poor Dennis when his affair with Madonna comes to an end.

"No one understood how hard it was to be Madonna - and the man she was going out with," the real Rodman says. "The two of us together was too crazy. Love ain't a fairy tale, like I said. And for Dennis Rodman, nothing comes easy."

Poor Dennis. Poor, poor Dennis.

If this were simply a bad movie about some obnoxious basketball player, that would be plenty. But the fact is that "Bad as I Wanna Be" excuses Rodman's extreme behavior when it's not ignoring it - or glorifying it. And, for that, ABC should indeed be ashamed.