Film review: 'More Than A Game' low on depth chart of basketball flicks

Published: Friday, Oct. 16 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

LeBron James, center, with St. Vincent-St. Mary High School basketball team, appear in the documentary "More Than a Game."

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MORE THAN A GAME — ★★1/2 — Documentary feature about the 2002 St. Vincent-St. Mary boys basketball team; rated PG (mild profanity, slurs, brief drugs); Broadway Centre

You have to feel sorry for all the basketball movies that have followed the 1994 documentary "Hoop Dreams" and the 1986 drama "Hoosiers."

After all, none of them have been able to replicate either the comprehensive, scholarly, journalistic approach of the former, or the winning, root-for-the-underdog spirit of the latter.

Against that, the documentary "More Than a Game" doesn't stand a chance.

Of course, the film is pretty superficial in its reporting and is by-the-numbers in its storytelling. If the subjects weren't interesting, the movie would be a complete snore.

In it, director Kristopher Belman follows the members of the 2002 St.Vincent-St. Mary boys basketball team, which was a national championship contender.

Four of the team members — LeBron James, Sian Cotton, Dru Joyce III and Willie McGee — had been friends and teammates since they were kids.

And their coach was Dru Joyce II, a former athlete who just happened to be the father of one of the players and who made up for his lack of experience with real determination.

Still, the team, based in Akron, Ohio, faced competition from supposed "all-star" teams located in bigger cities around the country.

Belman uses the first hour or so of the film profiling the so-called "Fab Four" (a later arrival, Romeo Travis, turned this assemblage into a "Fab Five").

However, he takes too long in this build-up process, and anyone with peripheral knowledge of basketball already knows whether the team won the coveted national championship crown. So there's virtually no suspense in that regard.

Also, portions of the film that examine James' rise to fame — and the resulting circus sideshow atmosphere — only skim the surface.

(James served as one of the film's producers, so you can understand why Belman didn't want to probe any deeper.)

"More Than a Game" is rated PG and features scattered mild profanity (mostly religiously based), derogatory slurs and language, some hoops-related violence and rough-housing, and brief drug references (narcotics). Running time: 102 minutes.

e-mail: jeff@desnews.com

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