11/30/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Movie Review: More Than a Game

Sports documentaries tend to follow a formula, mostly having to do with either the athlete in question's rise to or fall from glory. Archival footage is interspersed with talking heads, declaiming the subject as the fastest/toughest/greatest/baddest of all time.

There are exceptions, to be sure. This year, to name one, James Toback's Tyson transformed the formula by focusing on a single voice: Tyson's.

Kristopher Belman's More Than a Game goes in the opposite direction but works its own changes on the form. Though it tells the story of the rise of basketball's already legendary LeBron James, it frames it as part of a larger story about friendship and teamwork. The film winds up being about a group of young men who grew up together and, even as James blossomed into a ready-for-the-NBA star, retained the bond that made them the greatest team of schoolboy players ever assembled.

Belman begins with the team's final game together: as the St. Vincent- St. Mary Fighting Irish of Akron, Ohio, playing for the national championship. But Belman's focus is not on James, the team's nationally known star, but the team itself and its coach, Dru Joyce.

That's Belman's method throughout. James gets his screen time, but Belman isn't there to polish the King James myth. Instead, he wants to examine and expose a friendship that grew among teammates from pre-teen years to graduation, shaping their lives even more than it did their games.

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