Published Oct 29, 2009More than a Game is a wonderful documentary following the Akron, OH high-school basketball team that launched the career of LeBron James.
When they were 11 years old, LeBron, Dru, Willie and Sian met through a basketball program hosted at a Salvation Army gym, coached by Dru's father, Dru Senior. They quickly became best friends, developing an incredible chemistry on the court that had them competing at the national level in junior high. They decided to stick together during high-school, choosing the predominantly white St. Vincent-St. Mary's school because the coach there promised to give the diminutive Dru (he was 4-feet-11-inches, at the time) a spot on the team.
The four led their team to unprecedented success, piling up trophies on their way to the elusive national title. Along the way, they added a fifth member named Romeo to their elite group and coach Dru was hired to oversee the team that he founded many years before, becoming another integral part of their success.
It's a great story of genuine friendship and incredible talent, well told by first-time director Kristopher Belman. The film employs an almost classical structure of five acts, starting with the pre-high school team's national showing then following them through each of the four high-school seasons as they come together as a team, rise through the ranks, achieve a celebrity status that brings about a complacency and hubris that costs them a championship, and have to refocus and recommit to each other and the coach in order to reach their ultimate goal.
The film is stylishly edited, creating suspense with well-chosen music driving the combination of talking head interviews, game footage and intimate, behind-the-scenes camera work. Towards the end, the film delves into the personal stories of each of the "Fab 5," which slows the film's momentum a bit but offers a rich look at each of the players.
The result is a totally compelling and almost ridiculously feel-good film that seems to effortlessly achieve what so many sports movies strive for. (Maple)