More so than almost any other type of film, a documentary can either sink or swim on the strength of the story at its core; no amount of stylistic flourish or keen editing can cover up for lack of content, and when the filmmakers attempt to compensate it can be painfully obvious. As someone who generally detests watching sports and has nary a competitive bone in his body, I wasn’t quite sure how I’d approach a documentary like More Than a Game. Eventually, I surmised that given my unabashed prejudice against all things “-ball,” I’d be the ideal subject to gauge whether the film had a genuine story to tell, or existed solely as another shovelful of coal in the engine of the LeBron James hype train. Thankfully for documentary and sports fans alike, More Than a Game is a film with genuine heart and soul -- an inspiring celebration of dreams and friendship with the power to move even a guy who would never willingly step into any kind of stadium, and owns not a single jersey.
Of course, I might have guessed that by reading the title, but can you blame me? It really is kind of a cliche.
Growing up, James, Willie McGee, Dru Joyce III (aka “Little Dru”), and Sian Cotton were the very best of friends -- both on and off of the court. They all hailed from different backgrounds, but were bonded together by their love of basketball and their desire to make something meaningful of their lives. When the four friends started playing together for St. Vincent-St. Mary in Akron, OH, it was obvious to anyone who watched them work the court that they would be the origins of something truly special. With an intuitive sense of teamwork and a dedication to being the very best, the four friends quickly caught the attention of a national audience. Originally dubbed the “Fab Four,” the group eventually expanded to the “Fab Five” with the addition of Romeo Travis to the team, and ultimately went on to realize their shared dream of winning the national championships under the leadership of coach Dru Joyce II, who continually emphasized teamwork over trophy winning. In the midst of this, star player James would become one of the most sought-after players in the history of high school basketball.
Every once in a while, the cameras are rolling to capture a moment in time that will never be repeated. Whether by fortune or foresight, filmmaker Kristopher Belman had his lens trained on a group of truly remarkable athletes at a fascinating, pivotal moment in their young lives. The result is a film that transcends its subject matter by becoming something more than a simple tale of sports success; More Than a Game is a story of courage, conviction, and the role that our friends can play in helping us to reach our true potential. It’s told with style and sincerity, and by focusing as much on the challenges faced by the St. Vincent-St. Mary team as it does their successes, the film provides us with a glimpse into the true character of everyone involved. In America we tend to idolize our athletes, frequently elevating them to hero status. But how many of them are truly deserving of such a title? Whether you could truly classify the five basketball players at the center of More Than a Game as “heroes” may be up for debate, though for his efforts in steering their lives in the right direction, their coach Dru Joyce II is almost certainly deserving of the title. By keeping his commitment to his players, even after all hope seemed lost, Dru Joyce II pushed a team of dedicated friends and athletes to realize their shared dream of winning the national championships, and if that doesn’t qualify him as a hero, then chances are nothing will.
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- Released: 2008
- Review: More so than almost any other type of film, a documentary can either sink or swim on the strength of the story at its core; no amount of stylistic flourish or keen editing can cover up for lack of content, and when the filmmakers attempt to compensate it c… (more)