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Lionsgate

Basketball brothers

Movies | Game stumbles, but remarkable story shines through

Issue: "Do the math," Nov. 7, 2009

LeBron James was flashy, Dru Joyce III was feisty, Sian Cotton was hefty, Willie McGee was mature, and Romeo Travis was in the game for the girls. They called themselves the "Fab Five," and they were the stars of a basketball team some called the best in high school history. Directed by Kristopher Belman, the documentary More Than a Game tells the story of how these teens packed university stadiums and catapulted the Fighting Irish from Akron, Ohio, to national fame.

Several of the "Fab Five" drifted through the projects as kids, from home to home torn apart by drugs. They call each other "brothers" and Dru Joyce II, their coach, takes it upon himself to teach them more than a game. "My job wasn't about basketball," he says. "It was about helping them become men." It is easy to see Joyce, with his soft-spoken pep talks and prayers, as the father figure who first has to command the boys' respect before he can check their braggadocio and hold them together as a team.

The documentary waits too long to tell the boys' individual stories, tacking their personal obstacles on as an afterthought. The film's interviews are thorough but perhaps too thorough-too cluttered with minor, faceless characters that make the documentary plod too heavily. The commentary often buries the movie's key moments, and the sound­track drowns them out when it swells too obviously at emotional junctures.

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But despite the occasionally ham-handed storytelling, the story itself-of a high school team whose friendship, talent, and steady coach propel them into early fame-is worth telling.

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