Film Review: More Than a Game

Directed by Kristopher Belman

>> Opens in Cleveland, New York and Los Angeles Oct. 2 and nationwide Oct. 16

Kristopher Belman’s documentary about Akron’s national champion St. Vincent-St. Mary high school basketball team is not a LeBron James movie.

It has been and will continue to be referred to that way, and certainly James is the most recognizable face on the screen. But Belman wisely avoids making the NBA star’s story too much of his film’s focus. Instead, he tells the tale of a father and a son and a group of boys who become a family.

In fact, by the time James’ story is presented — two-thirds of the way through the movie —you’ve already been captivated by those of his teammates and his high school coach, Dru Joyce II, who serves as the film’s emotional center.

He is the one who introduces us to the group of Akron boys he guided from a linoleum-floored Salvation Army gymnasium to high school basketball’s biggest stage. And each of his “Fab Five” (James, Dru Joyce III, Sian Cotton, Willie McGee and Romeo Travis) get equal billing.

Belman’s documentary is built from home movies, game telecasts and fresh interviews with the players and their families, as well as footage Belman shot during the team’s practices and games. It also incorporates slick but never gimmicky computer animation that, among other things, brings life to many of the photographs used in the film.

Belman, a first-time director and Akron native, does a good job juggling all the elements and personalities at play. While the repeated use of game footage may grow old for people who aren’t SportsCenter junkies, the relationships and the transformations of everyone, including coach Joyce, are what really matter in More Than a Game. And they are handled with the deft touch of a gifted storyteller.

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