It requires a tricky balance of luck and preparation for a truly fantastic documentary to come together, and when that doesn't happen -- a subject clams up or proves uninteresting; perhaps the drama simply never unfolds -- most projects get sent to the scrap heap. Or, in the case of
In April of last year, director
As fate would have it, though, the work was all for naught. The Spurs ended up playing the entire game without
If there were ever any chance at salvaging this particular opportunity, Bryant and Lee simply weren't the duo to make it happen. Lee, for his part, put together an altogether not-so-amazing basketball movie. We've seen NFL Films churn out better stuff a million times, so it's hard to be impressed by Lee's access alone. And for all we've heard about how much of a workaholic Kobe is, it's disappointing to start the film with Kobe's arrival at the Staples Center and end on his departure in an SUV. Just five minutes at his house -- or in his car for the ride home -- would have done wonders for the production. Even the locker room access feels abbreviated and heavily censored. That bring us to the subject himself: Kobe.
In the wake of this film's April premiere at Tribeca, word leaked out, via the
On some levels it appears Bryant is doing the censoring first-hand. He narrates over 80 minutes of game footage and yet the only hints of personality we get are lame bits like, "I'm so amped up just watching this!" On five occasions we hear Kobe talk about how "fun" the game is. And even when he's seen sparring with
But it's not. Whether it happened this way,
In the second half, Bryant grows a little more comfortable in explaining, for example, the triangle offense. And now we've hyperdrived into an X's and O's pic. (Bizarrely, the director, who's sat out the entire film to this point, chooses this opportunity to inject his narrating voice with lame questions and conversation about, predictably, the Knicks.) So who, Spike Lee, is this movie intended for, anyway?
Whether he intended it or not, Lee has delivered a lame but loving homage pic. Even then, we miss out on the most interesting aspects of the character. Love Bryant or hate him, there's a fascinating movie to be made in spending a whole evening with one of the most cocksure, prickly and talented players in the NBA. Lee just missed out on the chance.