The Heart of the Game

COURTLY LOVE Darnellia Russell hoops to conquer.
COURTLY LOVE Darnellia Russell hoops to conquer.

Time Out says

True-life sports movies can’t miss, right? That seems to be Miramax’s gambit with The Heart of the Game, an overprepared but undercooked high-school-basketball doc cobbled together by erstwhile flack Ward Serrill. Essentially a hagiography of Bill Resler, a girls’ b-ball coach at Seattle’s upscale Roosevelt High, Game follows him and his teams over the course of seven seasons. African-American phenom Darnellia Russell joins up midfilm, and her trials on and off the court at largely white Roosevelt become the narrative’s focus.

The problem isn’t that Darnellia’s story (or even, in a pinch, Resler’s) isn’t worth telling; it’s that the movie never settles on a proper hook. No sooner are issues of race, class and gender introduced than Serrill moves on, as if none were sufficiently weighty (or commercial) to justify his project’s impressive/absurd span. Instead, he plays it safe by anchoring the movie in banal expository narration (courtesy of honey-toned Ludacris), verbose contextualization la Resler and melodramatic dead ends. The film’s only intriguing elements are, perversely, that none of the team members go on to hoops stardom, and the protags’ nonchalant resilience in the face of everyday obstacles—including nosy, underinspired documentarians. (Opens Fri; click here for venues.)—Mark Holcomb



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