This was originally posted in my 2008 Toronto Film Festival Recap. The review has been fixed up and re-posted as the film will finally was released in theatres today.
More Than A Game
First runner-up to Slumdog Millionaire for the “Peoples Choice Award” at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival, More Than A Game is an uplifting tale about friendship, hardship, and determination. The documentary looks at how five friends growing up in Akron, Ohio defied all expectation and changed the way America looked at high school basketball. Through the help of Coach Dru, a businessman who knew little about the sport going in, the five young athletes are forced to overcome many obstacles on and off the court. Not only did four of the five men begin playing together in grade school; but one of them, a kid named LeBron James, would become the first high school student to be handpicked by Sports Illustrated as the next big thing. As the wins start to pile up and the media scrutiny become more rampant, egos arise, relationships become strained, and the adversities mount.
While LeBron James is the marquee name that will most likely bring people to the theatre; the audience will be cheering for Coach Dru and the other members of the aptly dubbed “Fab Five” (Little Dru, Sian, Willie, and Romeo) equally, if not more, by the end. Director Kristopher Belman skillfully gives enough weight to each person so that you get a good understanding of the boys bonds to each other and their coach. Belman could have easily just made a film that was nothing more than a basketball highlight reel. Instead Belman opts to make the basketball games a secondary aspect. The real story is how the boys worked hard to achieve what they wanted. We see the damage the game does to the relationship between Coach Dru and his son Little Dru. Belman also provides good insight to how every choice made by the players drastically changes where they end up later in life. Obviously depending on how much you already know about the LeBron James story may impact how you view the film. For me the film was an eye opener as I knew very little about LeBron prior to his NBA career. Uplifting without being sentimental, More Than A Game is definitely a crowd pleaser on several levels.
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