Mitsuru Okabe, the filmmaker behind the engaging sports documentary on the Australian bodybuilding champion Lee Priest: The Blonde Myth, has returned to the gym for yet another profile on a muscle-bound athlete. Unfortunately, Okabe does not repeat his success with the humdrum “Jay Cutler: A Cut Above.”
Jay Cutler is the Worcester, Massachusetts-based bodybuilding star whose exhaustive training regimen for the 1999 Mr. Olympia competition is featured here; it is never explained why it took Okabe three years for the footage to be readied for release. Cutler is a physically impressive individual, to be sure, and there is no debate that he looks great on film.
However, in this documentary Cutler seems both annoyed and uncomfortable being followed by the camera. Unlike Lee Priest in the earlier film, who clearly loved being on camera and used his extroverted charm to its fullest, Cutler rarely acknowledges the camera until the very end of the film when he provides a brief tour of his home. But even then he seems ill-at-ease and nervous, which is quite odd for someone whose professional life involves being on display for crowds. This lack of comfort is painfully evident in a brief sequence in which he visits a sports nutrition consultant; Cutler gives a quick posing routine and slurps a bowl of oatmeal but says precious little as his nutritionist picks up the awkward lulls in the conversation by detailing the athlete’s brutal training diet.
While “Jay Cutler: A Cut Above” is frequently striking in regards to the intensity of the athlete’s workout routines, the film is weighed down by Cutler’s droning narration of his life story and training schedules. Cutler never seemed to workout his vocal chords, as his speaking voice is so flat and monotonous that interruptions by generic rock instrumentals designed to dramatize Cutler’s strength comes as a welcome aural relief.
Diehard bodybuilding fans may endure “Jay Cutler: A Cut Above” without complaint, but everyone else will probably enjoy an intense thumb workout in pressing the fast-forward button to speed through this less-than-compelling documentary.