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Featured DVD Review: More Than a Game

January 30th, 2010

More Than a Game - Buy from Amazon

More Than a Game is a documentary about the Saint Vincent - Saint Mary high school basketball team that included four friends who had been playing together since they were in fourth grade, one of whom is Lebron James. It had started out as a film school project by director Kris Belman, but as the story grew, so did the film. What started out as a ten-minute project for Intro to Documentary Filmmaking became a feature-length film released in theaters late last year. That's an interesting journey for a film to make. Hopefully the movie itself is at least just as interesting.

As a documentary, there's not much of a plot to talk about. You could say it's a movie about the early years of Lebron James and for many people that would be enough to get them interested. However, the movie is more than that. Because the filmmaker, Kris Belman, started the film before the Lebron James media phenomenon was in full gear, he was able to get access to stuff no one else could. He almost became part of the team, as we learn in one of the special features, so the players trusted him and acted naturally with him around. As a behind-the-scene documentary, it is hard to top. Perhaps it doesn't get as in-depth as some would like, but the four friends he set out to do a ten-minute short film about had such an amazing journey that it is worth checking out.

This film had an uphill battle to win me over, because I'm not a fan of basketball. (They score too much, so each point doesn't have the same meaning. On the other hand, they don't score enough in soccer, so it is a balancing act. I think hockey gets it mostly right, although they are maybe a little on the low end.) So part of the appeal of the movie, the rare basketball footage perhaps didn't have the same ability to hook me as it would a basketball fan. On the other hand, I had no idea who won these important games, so there was a sense of suspense that won't be there for most knowledgeable basketball fans.

There were a few topics that I would have liked explored more. It is only briefly mentioned that for a time the team started to believe the hype and started to live like professional athletes when they were still high school students. Also, I would have liked to as seen more about how their travel schedule affected the rest of their lives, including the academic side of high school. The athletes themselves are not allowed to accept gifts, but obviously someone's making money off of the sport, which is another topic I would have liked to be discussed.

That said, while it feels incomplete, it is still compelling.

Extras on the DVD include a nearly ten-minute-long making-of featurette, a featurette on the psychology of sports that is nearly as long, and finally a featurette on the scoring of the film. Overall the three featurettes run about 24 minutes long and all three are worth checking out.

The Verdict

The overall value of More Than a Game depends a lot on your love for basketball in general and Lebron James specifically. If you are a hardcore fan, it is worth buying. Even if you are not a fan of either, it is worth at least a rental.

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Filed under: Video Review, More Than a Game