Saturday, September 26, 2009

More Than a Game

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Inspirational Bio-Pic Chronicles LeBron James’ Formative Years

Most people only know LeBron James as a basketball phenom who went straight from high school to the NBA, where this year he was named the youngest MVP in the history of the league. However, few are aware of how challenging a childhood he had to overcome en route to the pros, being raised by a single-mom who had a hard time just keeping a roof over their heads.

In fact, Lebron moved about a dozen times between the ages of 5 and 8, living in some of the worst projects around Akron, Ohio. Fortunately, his chronically-unemployed mother Gloria had the good sense to let her son stay with his coach’s family until she was able to provide him with a stable home situation.

LeBron ended up forming what would prove to be lifelong bonds during his formative years, first while playing in an AAU league and later while attending St. Vincent-St. Mary High School. For over that period, he had the same teammates: Dru Joyce III, Romeo Travis, Willie McGee and Sian Cotton. Consequently, as LeBron reminisces, “It was basketball, but it was more like friendship than anything.”

Furthermore, they were coached by Dru’s father, a practical role model who impressed upon them from the outset that basketball was “more than a game,” to help them see it was a vehicle to be used “to get from Point A to Point B.” LeBron and company took that message to heart, cultivating not only character, individually, but a chemistry and cohesiveness, collectively, which would stand the test of time.

Yes, that tight-knit squad enjoyed unparalleled success on the court, including the national championship title, but this moving documentary focuses as much on their achievements away from the sport to drive home more important points about the value of loyalty, persistence and integrity in overcoming any adversity. Although LeBron was obviously the star of the team, the picture devotes equal time to all the members, each of whom had his own cross to bear. Along the way, we learn that Willie was raised by his big brother, because both of his parents were drug addicts; that diminutive Dru had a short kid’s complex; that Romeo had anger management issues; and that Gentle Giant Sian struggled to outgrow his clumsiness.

More Than a Game marks the auspicious directorial debut of Kristopher Belman, who was afforded unusual access to the Fab Five for seven years, from junior high through their high school graduation. The footage he shot of LeBron back then proves priceless now, as it is an absolute treat for an avid NBA fan to be able to watch the gifted man-child’s potential gradually materialize right before your very eyes. Nonetheless, More Than a Game remains, at heart, an inspirational bio-pic about the transcendent magic of friendship forged in pursuit of hoop dreams.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG for mild epithets and smoking.
Running time: 105 minutes
Studio: Lions Gate Films

No comments: