September 08, 2008
"More Than A Game," a documentary about LeBron James' St. Vincent-St. Mary High School basketball team, premiered at Toronto International Film Festival on Saturday. It was incredible. But don't take my word for it. Here's what they're saying out in the ether about the movie ...
Daily Film Dose (****): "I've often said the best documentaries are unintentional and incalculable strokes of luck. "Capturing the Friedmans" was a stroke of luck, "Thin Blue Line" was a stroke of luck. Kristopher Belman has similar luck. Several years ago the unknown rookie filmmaker decided to follow his local Akron high school basketball team around for a short film. One of the players happened to be the soon-to-be NBA superstar LeBron James. Once James hit the big time Belman found himself sitting on a very hot property, something he caudled and took his time to craft and perfect. The simple verite documentary, now completed, is perhaps the finest film ever made on the sport of basketball — even better than the revered "Hoop Dreams."
Clint O'Connor, The Plain Dealer: "LeBron James finally found one of the few things he can't conquer: tears. Welled up with watery-eyed emotion, James tried to push them back with thumb and forefinger, but they just kept coming. He wasn't alone. There was a lot of crying and hugging when the lights came up at Saturday's world premiere of "More Than a Game." [...] Four of the five (Cotton couldn't make it) sat together in the Ryerson Theatre, teasing each other, laughing and cheering like ninth-graders. They were joined by a large Ohio contingent of friends, former coaches and family. "It was flat-out awesome," said James' mother, Gloria, in her instant thumbs-up review of the film."
Variety: "The object of helmer Kristopher Belman's attention for about eight years, the story involves high schoolers who, since grade school, had played for the same coach: Dru Joyce, who left corporate America to find more meaning in his life and found more than he bargained for at St. Vincent-St. Mary. Belman has solid material to work with, courtesy of James, Dru Joyce, Sian Cotton and Willie McGee, who were joined by Romeo Travis and together terrorized the Ohio competition. Belman and editor V. Scott Balcerek shape a propulsive, fast-breaking narrative that doesn't quite follow the conventions of fiction, although it sometimes seems like a fairy tale."
Chris Clarke, SLAM Online: "For obvious reasons, it will be compared to "Hoop Dreams," but doing so is a disservice to both films. They both about basketball, but hopefully that doesn't lead to critics to make direct comparisons. [...] I can't imagine this film getting a wide theatrical release, but only because the subject matter is, well, a little too "niche." Sure, LeBron James is one of the most marketable players in the world, and yes, basketball is big around the globe. That said, documentaries have to be extremely compelling; they have to tell a story that rivals their fictional counterparts. You'll probably be able to catch it on DVD in about a year, so check it out then."
Hooped Up: "This film lived up to all the hype surrounding it, like LeBron James did while filming this movie before entering the NBA draft as a high school player from Akron, Ohio. It was authentic, funny, action packed and moving. I had goose bumps when the music would drop over the intense basketball action throughout the film. Although, the Ja Rule playing when they came back to Akron after being ranked #1 in the nation ... I could have done without. [...] After watching this movie, you'd be crazy not to cheer for LeBron James as a person and player."
The Big Picture, LA Times: "With James' presence on screen, both in old footage and new interviews, the film seems to have the star power to transcend some of the normal documentary box-office boundaries. At dinner, [Interscope-Geffen-A&M Records head honcho Jimmy] Iovine and James' management were talking about "More Than A Game" sneakers, soundtracks and all sorts of other marketing ideas that could perhaps transform the film into a true pop culture event. Seeing LeBron up close and personal, I can see why people around him have oversized dreams. He is bigger than life, in more ways than one."