At this point, I’ve seen so many rousingly slick cookie-cutter high school sports movies that I have no real desire to see another one. But that’s part of the reason I enjoyed More Than a Game. It tells the story of the ”Fab Five,” the African-American core members of the Fighting Irish basketball team from St. Vincent?St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio. Starting in the early 2000s, the team was led to national glory by the young LeBron James. More Than a Game is a documentary, but it’s every inch a triumph-of-the-underdogs fairy tale. Indeed, it’s almost funny, at times, to see how many classic Hollywood tropes are replicated, with far more vivid drama, in this expertly edited assemblage of video-shot game footage and hindsight interviews.
There’s the day that Dru Joyce III, the team’s tiniest member (barely five feet tall), wins a game by shooting seven three-pointers in a row. There’s the team’s awesome victory streak, which gets interrupted only when the Fab Five grow too cocky. There’s the surreal infusion of big-money endorsement deals — ?in high school! — which no one blinked an eye at until James accepted two free jerseys from a store, at which point he was benched in the middle of a perfect season. The team had to play without him, and guess what happened? (I won’t say.) More Than a Game could be an extended ESPN special, except that what’s moving about it isn’t the basketball prowess. It’s the die-hard camaraderie that undergirded this squad and lifted it to the top. B+