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Overall Rating
4.3

Awesome50%
Worth A Look: 30%
Just Average: 20%
Pretty Crappy: 0%
Sucks: 0%

2 reviews, 18 user ratings


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Heart of the Game, The
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by Peter Sobczynski

"It shoots but doesn't quite score!"
3 stars

There are two stories at the heart of the inspirational basketball documentary “The Heart of the Game” but only one them is particularly compelling. Unfortunately, it takes so long to get to the good stuff that the entire film suffers a little as a result–it isn’t bad but it is an adequate film that has a potentially great one bubbling just beneath its surface.

The first tells us about Bill Resler, a tax law professor who became the coach of the girls basketball team at Seattle’s Roosevelt High School and, thanks to his unorthodox methods (such as a “no offense” plan), takes them to the championship in his very first year and continues to do so year after year even as the players inevitably change. This material is pleasant enough (aside from one harrowing detour involving the sad off-court life of one player) but it tells a story that we have seen many times before in other films and it is a little frustrating to see how filmmaker Ward Serrill brushes up against some potentially interesting material (such as inspiring his girls into bonding by using the kind of violent imagery that is usually criticized when offered up to boys teams) without really exploring it in the detail that it cries out for.

Things pick up considerably with the introduction of Darnelia Russell, an outstanding prodigy who overcomes both her qualms about being one of the few black kids in a mostly white school and some early academic difficulties to become a local superstar. At that point, however, real life kicks in with a vengeance and Darnelia’s future, sports and otherwise, takes a surprising turn. Unlike the first portion of the film, this is material that Serrill hadn’t counted on when he started his film seven years earlier (which was originally designed as a short centering on Resler) and the later scenes have a drama and electricity to them that simply wasn’t there early on. At other times, Serrill just got lucky with the way events unfolded–just before the big game at the finale, Resler makes a surprising decision regarding whom he will play and we in the audience are just as amazed as he is by what occurs as a result.

If the film had focused entirely on the Darnelia Russell story (and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone was planning a feature film version as I write this), “The Heart of the Game” would have been a legitimate rival to “Hoop Dreams,” still the gold standard of sports documentaries. As it is, the film is a mildly interesting work that, with judicious pruning, could have been so much more.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=12239&reviewer=389
originally posted: 06/16/06 00:11:07
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Seattle Film Festival For more in the 2005 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Portland Film Festival For more in the 2006 Portland Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Tribeca Film Festival For more in the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 San Francisco Film Festival For more in the 2006 San Francisco Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Seattle Film Festival For more in the 2006 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/26/09 Shaun Wallner This movie delivers a wonderful message. 5 stars
11/14/06 William Goss Impressively compelling and admirably level-headed. 4 stars
6/20/06 Piper Nims Great! 5 stars
6/14/06 B-ball Jones This film is great and I love the music. 5 stars
6/14/06 Alex Incredible! You must see it. 5 stars
6/04/06 Sandy Fully engrossed this non-sports fan 5 stars
5/06/06 tobias draw blood! 5 stars
4/27/06 Jeff T Must Watch 5 stars
12/12/05 Luce Excellent story of overcoming unintended consequences of life through sports 5 stars
9/29/05 E. Northam Totally engaging & mesmerizing; heartfelt; superbly edited. 5 stars
9/18/05 denny enjoyable but hoop dreams did it better 4 stars
9/16/05 Kenyon Luce Exceptional film 5 stars
9/12/05 Kenyon Luce Excellent and heart warming, must see 5 stars
9/11/05 Alan Teder Terrific film that will have your cheering and weeping along with it. 5 stars
7/09/05 Hayley Awesome 5 stars
6/14/05 Diana Gard Absolutely fantastic, moving and profound 5 stars
6/14/05 Jeff Guyton The movie was well done and inspiring 4 stars
6/09/05 WAG this one lives in the soul 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  09-Jun-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 27-Feb-2007

UK
  N/A

Australia
  N/A


Directed by
  Ward Serrill

Written by
  Ward Serrill

Cast
  Ludacris
  Bill Resler
  Darnellia Russell
  Joyce Walker



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