It might be unfair that any basketball documentary with aspirations higher than a late-night highlight reel on ESPN must be compared with Hoop Dreams, but, as any baller knows, rules are rules.
If you haven't seen Steve James' 1994 documentary ' which followed young NBA hopefuls William Gates and Arthur Agee as they and their unbreakable mothers ward off starvation, chronic pain, a lack of utilities and, in Agee's case, debt collectors from the very high school that recruited him ' then you simply need to put this paper down and do what it takes to see it. Whatever you do, don't take money that would go toward the rental and apply it to the ticket price of More Than a Game.
That might seem harsh when speaking about one harmless ESPN highlight film, but it's Game director Kristopher Belman who put so much effort into injecting his documentary with self-importance. Let's start with the title, which is problematic by nature: There is nothing more than a game on display here.
Granted, the story of LeBron James and his four teammates is exciting; they come up together as kids and stay together virtually undefeated throughout high school, putting Akron, Ohio's, St. Vincent-St. Mary High School on the map. There's the head coach, whose son is one of James' supporting crew, who battles accusations of favoritism by wrecking his son's trust. There's the team's high-flying, exhilaratingly methodical dismantling of its opponents. There's the unthinkable pressure of staying undefeated, unfairly placed on children who shouldn't be able to cope. There's the hard reality that comes crashing when James is suspended over questions of ethics and money. (The school can profit off him, even holding their high-school games in an arena, but he cannot even think about profit.)
But the problem with More Than a Game is symptomized by James' suspension: It was two games. One game he's forced to sit out, which his team wins without him, and another they had to forfeit. He comes back triumphantly and they win their third state title.
Did these kids work harder than other kids can imagine? Yes. Were they given opportunities that other kids cannot imagine? Absolutely. There is nothing wrong with a group of guys working hard at their talent, having that talent recognized and fostered, and achieving great success because of that talent. But does watching five extraordinarily lucky, gifted and hard-working boys encountering success throughout their lives make for a good documentary? Of course not. There is no drama. There is no emotion. There is no film.
Did I mention you should see Hoop Dreams?